Emma Cordova Gonzales transitioned to eternal glory peacefully on November 14th, 2023 in her Albuquerque home, while on comfort care for a recent cancer diagnosis, she was 92 years old.
Emma was a treasured wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, aunt, daughter, and cherished friend. Emma was a faithful member of her church, an inspirational politician, respected public servant, talented artist, and world traveler. Emma was preceded in death by her high school sweetheart and dearly loved husband of 66 years, Richard "Dick" C. Gonzales; her parents Eulogia and Juan Cordova; and her siblings Joe Cordova, Estellita Cordova, Rose Anaya, and Viola Lujan.
Emma will forever be remembered by her beloved children; Sandra "Sandi" Gonzales, Richard Lee Gonzales and Kathryn Lynch, James "Jim" Gonzales and wife Shelly; her dearest grandchildren, Catherine Compton and husband Chris, Jennifer Burnett and husband Troy, Sabrina Smith, Christina Gonzales, Tricia Gonzales, and Kalie Gonzales; her adored great-grandchildren, Emma Burnett, Zane Compton, Lani Burnett, and Levi Priddy, as well as her many nieces and nephews.
Emma was an extraordinary woman, who dedicated her life to her family, church, and community. She was born in Albuquerque on October 1, 1931, to Eulogia and Juan Cordova from Colorado, her ancestors trace back to the mid-1600s through the Atrisco Land Grant issued by the King of Spain. Emma has honored her faith and heritage throughout her life. She was raised in a traditional Spanish-speaking home. Her father believed that girls should focus only on raising a family and homemaking, education was not a priority and any activities that were made for boys, like riding bikes, was not allowed. Emma and her sisters loved to go to the movies every Sunday and to go skating with their friends, which is where she met Dick when she was 14 years old. They married right out of high school, built their first home, and started their wonderful family. Once she had a family of her own, she was determined to further her education and to take part in a variety of activities with her children. She enjoyed attending sporting events, especially when her children were participating. She loved Sandi's beautiful dance recitals, Richard's football games, and Jim's hockey games. She even took a position as an Off-Ice Official for the NM Amateur Hockey Association. She also loved riding motorcycles and even learned to downhill ski at the age of 50. She was an excellent swimmer and participated in water aerobics until her late 80's. She was always around to help Dick and her sons on their many camping and hunting adventures and she was incredibly proud of the work Sandi did for women and children in their community. She strongly encouraged her family to pursue their educational and personal goals throughout their lives. She was a hard-working, loving, dedicated, supportive mother who loved to share stories of her children's, grandchildren's, and great-grandchildren's accomplishments.
Emma said that she felt extremely lucky to have had such a loving husband, who supported her while she accomplished her personal, professional, and political goals during a time when so many women were unable to do the same. Emma graduated from Albuquerque High School in 1949. She was home with her children during the day and attended school at night to earn a business certificate from Draughon's Business College. Once they were a little older she began working part-time at a furniture store over the holidays to help furnish the new home Dick built for their growing family, she eventually accepted a full-time position. When her children were school-age, Emma took a full-time administrative position at Sandia Laboratories. This gave her the opportunity to further her education at La Salle University of Chicago, where she obtained a degree in Management Purchasing and Traffic & Transportation. Emma also attended the University of New Mexico.
In 1974, after being active in politics for several years, Emma was elected as the Bernalillo County Clerk for 2 terms, she then went on to hold the Deputy County Clerk position for 4 years. While in office she designed the first, and present, Bernalillo County Flag. Emma and Dick were extremely honored to be invited to the Inauguration of President Jimmy Carter in 1977. In 1979, Emma and Dick received another invitation to the White House, to attend President Carter's formal reception for Pope John Paul II, this reception was one of her most cherished memories. Also in 1979, as a Hispanic woman voted into an elected Bernalillo County position, Emma was featured in the Las Mujeres book, an account of the lives and challenges of Hispanic women of her generation. From 1985 until her retirement in 1994, Emma was the Bernalillo County Purchasing Director. From 1991-1994 she held a Board of Directors position for P.E.R.A. Emma was also a successful real estate investor and political advisor for her son, Richard's, numerous commercial and residential real estate developments in New Mexico and Colorado.
Throughout her lifetime, Emma was a dedicated servant and leader within her church and community. She was part of the St. Bernadette Rosary Alter Society, a Leader for the Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and 4-H Club, a Secretary for the NM Amateur Hockey Association, and she also held multiple positions on the P.T.A. Boards for her children's schools. Emma held key roles in the Steering Committee for the First SW Regional Business Woman's Conference and NW Woman's Appeal for Human Rights for Soviet Jewry. She was also a dedicated member of the Democratic Party, holding the Ward Chairman, Ward Secretary, and Secretary of the Young Democrats positions.
Emma had many passions and hobbies, including cooking traditional New Mexican dishes, oil painting, reading, traveling, and playing games with family and friends, especially BINGO. When Emma and Dick were not working, they loved to entertain family and friends. Every holiday season, they hosted an annual Tamale-Making Party, which included their entire family and closest friends, a tradition that her granddaughters have carried on. She hosted elegant dinners, lively parties, and fabulous fundraisers, their guest lists were known to include celebrities, musicians, and diplomats. They also spent much of their free time traveling throughout the United States and to several countries; including Spain, North Africa, Canada, and Mexico. They loved to embark on cruises, one of their most memorable journeys was their Alaskan Land & Cruise adventure. She loved to share her favorite journeys with her great-grandchildren, one of their favorite stories was the weekend she and Dick made a midnight run to Las Vegas to see Elvis.
Emma has touched so many people in her life, she has left a lasting legacy for all who knew her and will be an inspiration for generations to come. She was extremely intelligent, beautiful, passionate, loving, and adventurous. She was uplifting and a delight to be around, even while she was beating you at cards. She will be leaving her mark on the Women's History of New Mexico and, as the Matriarch of the Gonzales Family, she has left her family and cherished friends with the gifts of her unconditional love, unwavering values, and the family traditions that were passed to her from her ancestors. During her interview for Las Mujeres, Emma said she felt a connection to the Spanish proverb, "Try to reach for the stars, but in the meantime, accomplish what you can.", she was truly a shining star, who shared her light and love with everyone that crossed her path along her journey.
Our family wants to extend a special thank you to Richard, Jim, and Shelly for your dedication, care, and support during this time, and to her granddaughters who have spent all their free time by her side. Thank you to her skilled medical team for your compassion and guidance, especially Presbyterian Hospice Care. Our family would also like to thank her many, many dear friends and neighbors for their countless blessings and prayers as she moved from this life to her never-ending life in Heaven. We have been deeply touched by all who loved her and will be forever grateful.
Funeral arrangements were provided by French Funeral & Cremations.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Saturday, January 6th, 2024 from 9:45 - 11:00 am, at the Risen Savior Catholic Church, 7701 Wyoming Blvd NE Albuquerque NM 87109. Reception to follow from 12:00 - 2:00 pm at the Coronado Villa Retirement Resort, 6900 San Vicente Avenue NE Albuquerque NM 87109.
The Rite of Committal and Burial will take place on a later date at the Santa Fe National Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Emma may be made to the UNM Woman's Resource Center - Sabrina Single Mothers Scholarship https://women.unm.edu/donations/donations.html.