Maria Conferina (Connie) Padilla Gregory, a retired elementary school teacher, passed away from pneumonia on December 30, 2023 in Rio Rancho, NM at age 93. Born on a ranch in Sapello, NM, in 1930, she was a Bustos/ Bustillos descendant-a lineage established by Josefa Bustillos de Ontiveros, who arrived in 1694 at age ten with the Farfán Expedition of volunteer settler families from Mexico City. Connie's fluent English retained echoes of 18th-century Spanish.
As a child in Las Vegas, NM, Connie became a devotee of the local Carnegie Public Library. During WWII, her family moved to the thriving city of Oakland, CA, where her parents both worked in the Moore Shipyards. Returning to NM, she graduated from Las Vegas High School in 1949.
Connie's first teaching position was at a rural school in Cañoncito without water or heating. After marriage and the birth of her first child, she completed her Bachelor's degree at Highlands University in 1954 and began a long teaching career in the Espanola Public Schools, giving birth to three more children. She earned her Master's degree from Highlands in 1961. A decade later, she taught for a year in Panama, and later for eight more years in Houston, Texas, having taken her children to the 1968 World's Fair in San Antonio. Remarried in 1976, Connie enjoyed traveling the country in an RV with her husband, Richard Gregory.
Connie loved everything about New Mexico-- her Hispanic culture, Native tribes, the rugged landscape, green chile... A voracious reader, aspiring painter, ardent feminist and model citizen, Connie never stopped learning and made sure to cast her vote in every election. She regretted not living long enough to see a female as President of the United States.
Preceding her in death were her parents Carolina Sandoval and Apolinario Padilla, sisters Elvira Gonzales and Raquel Lujan, son David Vega, and both husbands. She is survived by son Max Paul Vega (Bernadine), daughters Nancy Romero Martinez and Rita Vega-Acevedo (Adrian); grandchildren Leonard Romero, Amanda Martinez, Amalia Martinez (Kristina), Juan Rangel Acevedo and Luz Acevedo; and great grandchildren Estevon Vigil Martinez, Kobe, and Bryant Martinez. Her nieces and nephews are Katherine Cullen, Bertha Olivia Flores, and brothers Arturo and Henry Gonzales.
Services for Conferina will be held at French Mortuary, 9300 Golf Course Road NW, Albuquerque at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, January 24, with a reception to follow in the same building. Burial that afternoon will be at the Santa Fe National Cemetery (501 North Guadalupe Street, Santa Fe). Attendees should arrive in their cars by 2 pm for the 2:30 ceremony.
Please mail any donations to Carnegie Public Library, 500 National Avenue, Las Vegas, NM 87701.