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Mary Jane Garcia, a retired state senator, business owner and community advocate born in the village of Doña Ana and served in the legislature from 1988 to 2012 representing the county, passed away on Jan. 5 at the age of 87.
“Mary Jane passed away peacefully this morning surrounded by her large and loving family,” the Doña Ana Village Historic Preservation Committee announced on Facebook. “Mary Jane spent decades fighting for our community and her positive impact on our village will benefit future generations.”
Garcia had begun hospice care late in December, per social media posts.
Doña Ana County issued a statement Friday announcing her death, which had been preceded by announcements on social media from state Sen. Jeff Steinborn, a fellow Democrat who holds the District 36 seat that was once Garcia’s, and the historic preservation committee, of which Garcia was a co-founder.
The county hailed Garcia as a leader who “dedicated her life to public service, tirelessly working to improve the lives of Doña Ana County residents,” citing her support for at-risk youth programs, animal rights, education, public safety, welfare reform and historic preservation. In recent years, she had been observed participating in cleanup days, clearing trash at the village’s historic cemetery.
Among the bills she carried in the legislature was the 2008 bill criminalizing human trafficking, legislation pertaining to cockfighting and other animal cruelty, domestic violence and missing children.
In a statement, Steinborn said, “New Mexico has lost one of its great public servants in Mary Jane Garcia. … She was also a tremendous cultural and historic preservationist who worked for decades to preserve the history of her beloved community, the Village of Doña Ana, and cared deeply for her constituents.”
She had been a co-owner of Billy the Kid’s Gift Shop in Mesilla and the Victoria’s Lounge bar in Las Cruces, who earned degrees in anthropology from New Mexico State University and published, as her master’s thesis, the first document history of the village of her birth. From 1966 until 1972, she had served as an administrative assistant for the U.S. military and a medical volunteer in Saigon during the Vietnam War.
“Former Senator Mary Jane Garcia’s legacy will forever be etched in the fabric of our community,” the county stated in its announcement.