A. Eugene Sanchez (May 4, 1935—May 11, 2019)

By: Bill Whaley
24 May, 2019

“An Honest Public Servant”

(A memorial Sanchez celebration will be held Saturday, June 15, 2019 at Gene’s grandfather Filemon’s favorite Canon watering hole, Don Carlos Lounge from 4 to 7. Gene’s three sons, Cory, James, and Zack say they will celebrate Joe and Mary, Gene and Jules, Filemon et al in a send-off over the sunset.)

Geno, as he was known to his intimates, was one of the few if not the only entirely honest public servant i.e. elected official I have known in Taos. He might have made mistakes but did not err out of conscious malediction. Even the semi-saintly ones I’ve known occasionally indulged in a twisted movida as means to serve a problematical end. But Gene’s refrain, “It’s the law,” spoke to his integrity. And it was his honesty, his wife Jules said, that underscored her love for him.

Of course, that sort of idealism runs up against realpolitick, which the way its practiced in New Mexico requires some acquaintance with perversity. For ten years I covered local politics 24/7 and I use to tease some of my activist political friends.

Gene: “I can’t believe they (Los Politicos) did that.”

Me: “You’ll get used to it when you’ve lived here long enough.”

Gene: “But I’ve lived here all my life.”

Me: “That’s the point, isn’t it?”

Geno was a bulwark against the tide of self-interest selfishly understood as well as the inveterate envidia-ridden local politics of self-destruction. “I was not a good father,” he admitted. I admired his self-effacing attitude. He’s one of my few friends and long-term acquaintances I can write about because at home with his flaws and virtues.

After three wives (and untold number of girlfriends) he got it right with Jules: As his son Cory said, “Jules and her sister were a Godsend to the family. Jules created the energy that brought the Sanchez family closer together. My grandparents, Mary and Joe adored Jules and her sister Lee. If Jules and my father had never met, I do not believe the home in Taos would have stayed intact after the passing of my grandparents.”

Sure, though he wouldn’t admit it, but Jules concurred, he was a Hito and a hypochondriac, sybaritic and profligate. He and Jules used to tease each other in sharp-tongued loving ways that bespoke their intimacy. And after she died early last August, between the impromptu outbursts of tears in the patio courtyard, he began to decline at a quickening pace, eyesight and hearing losses, dependent on TV (MSNBC) for diversion. (He did not like this president.)

During Gene’s life, the husband, father and grandfather, who attended Central Catholic School became the first Taos High grad (1949) to take his license as an architect (Nevada 1961, New Mexico, 1962). He graduated from Chicago Tech with an engineering degree in 1959. He and Ben Benson started the Taos Architects in 1962 and he designed public schools, government buildings, and private homes throughout New Mexico and the Southwest. As a member of the National Guard (1953-54) Gene did international undercover surveillance work in Juarez (more details during the Memorial service) during the leftist insurrection (unofficial) and later trained officers (official) as engineers at Fort Belvedere, Maryland.

After thirty-three years he retired from architecture and with Jules, managed Gallery A, started in 1962 by his mother Mary and a group of artists. He authored the two-volume hardcover edition of the Gene Kloss Raisonne’ with 482 of Kloss’s 627 catalogued images, plus many rare uncatalogued prints, sketches, and notes, spanning 1924 to 1985. For many years he served on the Governor’s Arts Council, choosing art for the Roundhouse and the State of New Mexico. He was, in his time as well known for his adventures in Santa Fe as Taos.

Gene served on the Town of Taos Planning and Zoning Commission and on the Town of Taos town council. One of the few elected officials who could actually read the budget, he caught out the staff in their “misinterpretations” and his fellow councilors “unprepared.” In the perversity of local politics, he became a scapegoat for questionable doings: “If he was for it, they were agin it.” And the reverse was also true.

In a previous life Gene served as Gil Archuleta’s right-hand man as co-conspirator at La Cocina and during retirement as an activist, and past vice-president of the El Prado Chicano Chamber of Commerce of which he was a founding member. Sure, he sometimes blundered: Juma, the Chicano president referred to him as “Mr. Magoo.” Gene stuck by the omni-outspoken Arsenio Cordova through thick and thin. To friends, despite their flaws, he was loyal to the core.

On Monday night, a full house at the TCA listened to a panel, sponsored by the Smithsonian and ASU re: “Is New Mexico an ‘Incomplete Project’ of the United States? Brought Into the Union Through Conquest, the State’s Untidy Identity and History of Autonomy Persist.” As I listened to the panel of sympathetic academics, I thought of the gene so many of us possess, whether native or newcomer, the “complexity of attraction for New Mexico” that goes way beyond notions of romanticism or do-gooding or even lawlessness. And I thought of Geno, a fully realized human being, who loved life not wisely but well though he loved Jules, finally, both well and wisely.

Gene is survived by his three sons, Cory Sanchez, James Sanchez (Veronica) and Zack Grey (aka Benjamin Sanchez). He is also survived by his grandchildren, Michael, Jason, Joseph and Samantha Sanchez, daughter-in-law Lorena (Cory), Prima Pauline Martinez and many cousins, as well as sisters in law, Lee Ciukowski and Jo Anne Sandquist, house pups, Roxy and Olive.

Gene is at peace. He will be missed by his family and his friends.