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When a friend in Rio Rancho asked Martha Saunders to check in on her father in Las Cruces, the rest was history, literally. Saunders needed to think of a reason to visit her friend’s 75-year-old father and decided to tell him she wanted to interview him for a book.
“It was an excuse to do a home visit,” Saunders said. “I wanted to make sure his environment was safe at that time. I wanted to have a reason to check on him, so the book was my reason.”
But Saunders was also inspired because she attended the 100th graduation of Las Cruces High School (LCHS) in 2019 and started thinking about the school’s long legacy.
“That’s what I wanted to commemorate,” she said. “We invited three alumni, two are in my book, Mr. Roach and Mr. Trujillo, one graduated in 1945, the other one in 1947.”
Saunders’ book, “LCHS 100, a Tribute to our Legacy,” came together quickly after her interviews with the two alumni. They referred her to others, and it kept growing.
“I have a lot from 1949,” she said. “One woman said you have to interview this person and that person and so on.”
After spending about eight months tracking and interviewing LCHS alumni, she put the stories together. Some interviews took five hours and some just one hour, she said. With four generations of her family attending the school, it’s no wonder she feels close to it.
Her grandfather, James F. Saunders, was the first Bulldawg in the family. He graduated in 1939. In addition to herself, her father, uncle and son also graduated from the school.
Then, when it was published, she put in the footwork to distribute it during the Covid-19 crisis.
Saunders’ newest book, “The Legendary Teachers of LCHS,” is now out, and she will be presenting and signing it from 3 to 5 p.m. Oct. 2, at the Rio Grande Winery, 5321 N. Highway 28.
After the first book, she realized the teachers at the school were the people who made the difference, not only teaching but mentoring students. She interviewed 23 teachers for the book and also includes 10 teachers in a memorial section.
“The oldest teacher I interviewed was Mrs. Hubbard or Mother Hubbard, just before her 94th birthday,” she said.
Las Cruces community icon Barbara Hubbard was a LCHS teacher before going to teach at New Mexico State University. Saunders said she had to go back three times to get the interview done because Hubbard is still such a busy woman.
In the book are memorable teachers like Donald Jones who taught Spanish and world history and was at the school for 41 years. Saunders said Jones retired and went back and substituted for another year. Another teacher who taught for 41 years, she referred to as Mrs. Thomas.
Also in the book is retired French teacher Pamela Court, named New Mexico Teacher of the Year in 2012 and currently on the Las Cruces Public Schools Board.
For Saunders, LCHS is special because she was a student at the school and had wonderful teachers, she said.
“This book is a thank you to those teachers that were there at the time, two of which are in it,” she said.
Saunders said she feels honored when people buy her books. When an 88-year-old woman bought 30 copies to hand out to her sorority and when a family put her book on the memorial table of a subject who passed away, they touched her, and she knows it’s all worth it.
“I wanted to be able to have their stories even when they are no longer here to tell them,” she said.
The new book is dedicated to her grandmother who taught elementary school for 35 years. The grandmother is also has been a big source of inspiration for Saunders.
“She wrote a book called ‘Tiger Lilies’ which was published in January of 1998,” Saunders said. “She passed away in April 1998. But that was a goal she had and because she did that, I think that inspired me even then as a teenager.”
She even encouraged people at reunions to contribute to the book about teachers and has included some pieces in the memorial section submitted by students and spouses of those who have passed away.