As of Tuesday, Ana Marie Houser is as old as the state of New Mexico.
The widow of famed Chiricahua Apache artist Allan Houser was born Aug. 7, 1912, near the village of Abiquiu, and about 300 friends and family members celebrated her centennial last Saturday at the family's sculpture garden/artistic compound south of Santa Fe.
Gov. Susana Martinez sent Houser birthday wishes. City of Santa Fe Mayor David Coss is proclaiming Aug. 7 Ana Marie Gallegos Houser Day.
"Her life is interwoven with the history of Northern New Mexico from her father, Juan de Dios Gallegos, whose family ranch was adjacent to Ghost Ranch, to the 50-plus years she spent with Allan Houser, one of the great artists of New Mexico, to her work at the Institute of American Indian Arts," said David Rettig, curator of collections for Allan Houser, Inc.
"She is so well loved. I came here in 1975 and knew a lot of those IAIA alum. Her husband taught there, but she worked in the office and they would go to her to help them straighten out their classes or their relationships or their problems if they got in trouble."
Some of those students still contact Houser on her Facebook page to tell her that they turned out all right, according to her grandson, Sam Haozous. He hasn't been able to play catch-up with her much lately because every time he drives by her house, she is busy visiting with well-wishers.
"She's always running around and doing stuff with other people," Sam Haozous said by phone Monday. "She's totally together. She still drives her Camaro back and forth to her hairdresser once a week. She's on top of everything -- including us, unfortunately."
Granddaughter Emily Haozous describes her grandmother as a woman who "has the tenacity to get what she wants accomplished, whether that is raising a family of four boys or supporting her husband artist through the lean times. ... She is a role model of a woman who knows how to get the job done. She has always been a woman who has worked within a world that has not always been friendly to women -- or strong Native women."
According to one of her sons, Bob Haozous, genetics, stubbornness and a passion for life have fueled his mother's 100 years and led her to today's celebration.
"She's always thinking and reading and trying to stay contemporary. She surrounds herself with contemporary experiences," he said. "She doesn't live in the past and she doesn't plan for the future. She's always watching TV, talking to people and going to the casino. She told me once, 'I don't like old people. They are boring. I want to be surrounded by young people. They are more fun.' She will always be young at heart."
Asked how his mother fares when she plays games of chance at the casino, Bob Haozous said, "It's like The Power of Positive Thinking. She says, 'If you wanna win, you win. If you have doubts, you won't win.' She wins. I guess I have doubts."
Fidencia Ana Maria Gallegos was the youngest of nine children born to Juan de Dios Gallegos and Maria Marciala Chavez -- both of whom lived to about 100, according to Bob Haozous. She began attending the Santa Fe Indian School in 1920 at the age of 8 -- when her name was shortened to Ana Marie -- and stayed there eight years. In 1929, she entered Riverside Indian School in Riverside, Calif.
She returned to New Mexico in the early 1930s and received a teaching certificate from New Mexico Highlands University. She spent several years teaching in Northern New Mexico schools. In the late 1930s, she relocated to Santa Fe, which is where she met and married Allan Houser. Though they lived in Oklahoma, California and Utah, the couple returned to Santa Fe in the early 1960s where they both went to work for the Institute of American Arts. There she worked first as secretary to the academic director and later as registrar, a position she held until her retirement in the mid-1970s.
Houser died of cancer at 80 in August 1994 and his widow has spent many of the ensuing years working to keep his memory and work alive. "Most of the people here in Santa Fe don't know anything about him," she told writer Ana Pacheco last year.
According to Bob Haozous, his mother's long-awaited memoir detailing her early years and familial history in Northern New Mexico should be published soon. The family planned to hand out sample pages from that manuscript during Saturday's celebration, but Ana Marie wasn't happy with the cuts that a copy editor made to the text, so she's "putting a lot of stuff back in."
The family plans a quieter, smaller birthday ceremony with Ana Marie Houser on Aug. 7.
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