It is with great sorrow and heavy hearts that we announce Gilbert Gomez, 95, of Hagerman, NM, passed on Saturday, November 6, 2021. He was the oldest of nine children born to Fermin and Estella Padilla Gomez. Gilbert admired his father and at an early age decided to become a farmer. To do so he had to give up an officer's commission and a promising military career.
Gilbert was born in Santa Rosa on September 20,1926. His mother, Estela, being from Santa Rosa, wanted her first child to be born in her hometown. Gilbert's father, Fermin, moved the family from Loving, NM to Lake Arthur, NM in 1932. Fermin started farming in the Lake Arthur area and farmed there until 1943. Then the family moved to Hagerman where Gilbert spent the rest of his life. He finished school at Lake Arthur in 1944 and went to Ag school for a while. Gilbert went on to join the U.S. Army (1944-1946). He was stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas where he attended anti-aircraft school and later served as an instructor. Officer Candidate School was next but was never commissioned because in order to become an officer he would have had to re-enlist. Gilbert wanted to be a farmer and was honorably discharged from the service in 1946.
Two very important events took place just before Gilbert's discharge from the Army and after he became a civilian. One, he leased land and started farming, two, he met an Artesia beauty named Elsie Torres who later became Mrs. Gilbert Gomez. They became man and wife in 1949. In 1951 their first child, Lauro (Larry) was born. Terry was born 5 years later. Tragedy struck the family in 1984 when Larry died of cancer.
Gilbert started farming in 1947. He leased land until he had enough money saved to buy his first farm where he started planning and installing conservation practices on his land. He employed land leveling, concrete ditch lining, underground pipeline installation, and integrated irrigation sprinkler systems.
In 1958 Gilbert was elected to the Chaves County Farm Bureau Board of Directors and was appointed chairman of the Labor Committee. His job was to process men in Rio Vista, Texas and transport them to Chaves County for farm labor. This was known as the Bracero Program. He recruited 2,500 to 3,000 workers to pick cotton each fall. During that time, he made several trips to Washington, D.C. It was during one of these trips that he met Sen. John F. Kennedy from Massachusetts. Gilbert said that "he was a jolly fellow and made him feel right at home". Gilbert was so impressed with the young senator, that he accepted a Chairmanship with the Farmers for Kennedy-Johnson Committee during the late President's bid for the White House.
In 1960 Kennedy was elected President and asked Gilbert to serve in his administration and offered him several options. Gilbert made the decision that he could best serve his neighbors and state by accepting a position on the state ASCS committee. He served for eight years and administered all Federal Farm Programs in New Mexico. He felt that his greatest accomplishment while serving on the ASCS committee was initiating lining the acequias on northern New Mexico farms in Taos, Santa Fe, and Rio Arriba counties. He has been quoted as saying, "Nothing has given me more satisfaction than those farmers thanking me for helping them to have enough water to farm productively" This project was a great effort from the farmers as well as the government agencies. The project was still active in 1993. Gilbert had no regrets for his decision to not serve in Kennedy's administration. He would say "My father farmed and from an early age that is what I wanted to do. I learned a lot about farming and conserving soil and water from my father. There are three things we need in this world-wind, water, and sun to work the soil. I think conserving our soil and water is the greatest and most important thing we can do".
Gilbert was elected a member of the Hagerman-Dexter Soil and Water conservation District Board of Supervisors in 1970 and was the district's vice chairman. In his spare time, he also served as a member of the New Mexico Farm bureau, chairman of the Pecos River Pumpers Association, chairman of the Hagerman Museum Board, Pecos River Riparian Restoration Board, Sureste RC & D Board, First National Bank of Artesia Board of Directors, First American Bank of Artesia Shares Board and, after retirement, Director Emeritus of First American Bank of Artesia. Gilbert also served on the Nomination Committee for Central Valley Electric.
In 1991 Gilbert was appointed to the National Cotton Board by the Secretary of Agriculture and served as the chairman of the Water Quality and Water Quantity Committee for the State Association of Conservation Districts, the cotton Advisory Board, Alfalfa Board, member State Crop Improvement Association, and advisory Board to the County Agent. He was a Colonel Aide-de-Camp for Governor Bruce King. In addition
Gilbert was a member of St. Catherine's Catholic Church in Hagerman. He served the church as an Eucharistic Minister and was a member of the finance committee.
Gilbert and his daughter, Terry, farmed 620 acres in the Pecos Valley around Hagerman. Part of that acreage was planted in alfalfa, cotton, onions, and chile. Pecans was a new venture started in his later years. He had approximately 12 acres of pecans in his orchard at the family home.
Gilbert never met a stranger and enjoyed chatting with old and new friends alike. He loved to gather family and friends for a delicious meal, good company, and a little “porch sitting” in nice weather. Gilbert enjoyed cooking, especially candy, cakes, and pies. He was always sharing his good eats with family and friends. He developed some endearing friendships through food, in particular, Phoebe Lattimer Spencer and Kristi Bogle. Food and recipes were exchanged often.
Gilbert was preceded in death by his mother Estela, father Fermin, son Larry, brothers Bobby, Sonny, Clancy, Joe and his Best Friend Paco.
Those left to cherish his memory are wife Elsie, daughter Terry, brothers Edward, David, Daniel, Billy, sister Olivia, and numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews.
The family would like to extend Special Gratitude to Mark & William Reid, Rosalia Bravo, Glynn Shelton, Norma Salcido, Juana Carabajal, and Frances Olivas for their loving care and support.
Honored to serve as pallbearers are Greg Marrs, Billy Gomez, Mario Reid, Andre Padilla, Mike Cassabone, and Raul Villa
A viewing will be held at St. Catherine’s Catholic Church on November 16, 2021 at 12:00PM located at 206 Texas Ave Hagerman. Rosary and Mass will follow at 1:30 PM. Interment will be at Twin Oaks Memorial Park on the Lake Arthur Hwy (State Rd 2). MASKS WILL BE REQUIRED TO ATTEND SERVICE.