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On angel's wings

Remembering Dr. Karen Trujillo


Dr. Karen Marie Trujillo, 50, of Las Cruces, New Mexico, beloved wife and partner to Ben Trujillo, mother of Taralyn, Tim and, Tavyn, transitioned from this earth to be with her Lord Jesus, and with the Communion of Saints, on Thursday, February 25, 2021.

Karen was born in Albuquerque on Sept. 25, 1970, to Gilbert and Bernadette Apodaca. After stints living in Farmington and Questa, her Apodaca family moved to Santa Fe. She was precocious, a student of life, always learning. She attended Kearney, Capshaw and Santa Fe High.

In her youth, she was active in 4-H, and began her lifelong affair with words, art, music and nature. She was first a teacher to her four younger siblings, and to many cousins and friends. The summer before her senior year, she was elected Lt. Governor of Girls State, then moved to Las Cruces. Excelling in her studies and active in drama, she graduated from Mayfield High in 1988. She was commencement speaker.

Karen lived a profound life of service and was a force for education in the state. Her deep spirituality guided her each day. She delighted in her faith journey—with a particular devotion to Mary and the Holy Family—and, at the same time, Karen saw the Spirit of God in all whose lives she touched, whatever their background. For 25 years, she dedicated herself professionally, with full resolve and purpose, and with much wisdom and joy, to the students, teachers and families of New Mexico. She lit up every room she entered with authenticity, intelligence and compassion. In a world built on transactional relationships, Karen did for others without expectation of something in return. She shared by example her vision for elevating others above self and working on being our best selves. She was living out God’s purpose for her life.

Karen began her career as a math teacher at Las Cruces High in 1993. She thereafter taught at Cobre High in Bayard, Hot Springs High in Truth or Consequences and at Alma D'Arte Charter High School in Las Cruces. She served as principal of the Las Cruces Catholic School.

Karen was a proud Aggie, earning her bachelor's and master’s degrees in mathematics education, and her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction in mathematics. As all who witnessed know, she loved cheering (intensely) for her beloved Aggies.

In 2000, Karen began working at NMSU as an adjunct professor and remained a local school administrator. While at NMSU, among other things, Karen wrote grants, conducted research and became director of K-12 outreach for the Alliance for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning with the College of Education.

While director, in 2015 she founded Educators Rising New Mexico, a program which recruits high schoolers to teaching careers. Karen also started NMSU's Southwest Outreach Academic Research Lab and worked in multiple research and development roles for Math Snacks, a grant-funded program which developed a set of games and animations to help children understand math concepts. Later, Karen became interim associate dean for research in NMSU’s College of Education.

In 2018, Karen ran for the District 5 seat on the Doña Ana County Commission and won. After weeks in office, and her selection as chairwoman, she was nominated to be Secretary of the New Mexico Department of Education. She was unanimously confirmed by the New Mexico Senate and served with grace and knowledge. She tirelessly rallied the state’s students and teachers to a belief that there was hope to be had in our shared future.

Karen thereafter returned home, where she became superintendent of the Las Cruces Public School District. She guided the children and teachers of Las Cruces with a steady hand. She navigated a cyber-attack and the pandemic. She never was overwhelmed by circumstance or expectation, because she always knew that education was the business of changing lives. There was nothing she would rather do. She led without fear, and with the conviction that we all have a duty to use our gifts to make our community and world a better place.

Until they are together again, Karen leaves her husband and children: Ben Trujillo, Taralyn Trujillo and John Melvin (Carson and Kennedy), Tim Trujillo and Mckenna Chavez and Tavyn Trujillo; her parents, Gilbert and Bernadette Apodaca; her mother-in-law, Elisia Trujillo; her siblings: Deborah Apodaca and fiancé, John Griffin (Samuel, Celia, Oushyn), Frank Apodaca and wife, Kyndra (Violet, Noelle), John Apodaca and wife, Marquita (Asher, Elyse), Julie Borrego and husband, Juan Carlos (Jeremiah, Josiah); her siblings in-law: Audon Trujillo Jr. (Elyse Ana), Mona Garcia and partner, John Adler (Daniel, Chris, Frances, Michael, Christina), Carmen ‘Sis’ Trujillo (Deniece, Clovis, Jennifer). In addition, she is survived by several aunts, uncles, cousins, great-nieces and nephews and Godchildren.

Karen is preceded in death by Frank Apodaca, Claribel Apodaca, Ramon Meza, Silvino Ortiz, Juan Lopez, Audon ‘Papi’ Trujillo, Francisco Trujillo, Tony Trujillo, Isi Trujillo, Cecilia M. Crowder, Isidra M. Montoya, Senovia M. Lara, Sophio Apodaca, Isabelita A. Miranda, Bences Apodaca, Jose Miranda, Neffe Miranda, Ramona M. Stone, Sobie M. Chavez, Chris Miranda, Juan Benito Rael, Celia Rael, Lois Rael, Tomas Rael, Stella and Jack Jackson, Roy Rael and Donella Rael.

Due to pandemic-related capacity restrictions, private funeral services will be held Saturday, March 13, 2021, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

For all those who wish to join virtually, Karen’s funeral services will be live streamed at www.livestream.com/lcpstv.

In lieu of flowers or food, Karen’s family requests donations to the Dr. Karen Trujillo Scholarship Fund to support aspiring teachers. Donations are tax deductible and can be made online at: http://support.nmsu.edu/give/memorial/trujillo-memorial/.

As an alternative to online donations, checks made payable to “In Memory of Dr. Karen Trujillo” can be mailed or dropped off at Ben Trujillo’s State Farm office, 1151 Heather Ave., Las Cruces, N.M. 88005.

To Karen’s family and friends, please know we will hold a celebration of life later when we can gather, share stories and toast her life. If you feel the need to attend the visitation, we ask that you wear protective masks and maintain six feet of distance between one each other. Only five people can pay their condolences at a time, so there will be a socially distanced line which will go through Baca’s Funeral Home and outside if necessary. We have set up the following schedule to allow for the shortest lines and safest environment. If your designated time below does not work with your schedule, please attend when able.

Thursday March 11, 2021: 11 a.m.-3:00 p.m. If you knew Karen through NMSU, please come and pay your respects during this time. 3-7 p.m. If you knew Karen through LCPS, please come and pay your respects during this time.

Friday March 12, 2021: 11 a.m.-3:00 p.m. If you did not personally know Karen but would like to support her family Ben, Tara, Tim, Tavyn and her parents Gilbert and Bernadette, please come and pay your respects. 3-7 p.m. If you are family, please come at this time.

Service arrangements have been entrusted to the care of Baca’s Funeral Chapels of Las Cruces, 300 E. Boutz Road, 575-527-2222. Your exclusive provider for “Veterans and Family Memorial Care.” For online condolences, log on to www.bacasfuneralchapelslascruces.com.