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Blanche Hortencia Ortega Stephens
I am Blanche Ortega Stephens, a pioneer of Roswell, New Mexico. I was born at 401 East Albuquerque Street on the East side of town. Due to illness of my mother we moved west of town to an area that was supposed to be out of town. Although our home was across from Missouri Avenue School, there were few homes nearby. Graduated from Roswell High School one of only three Spanish Students, the following September I was enrolled by my mother in Campbell Beauty Academy. After graduating from the Academy, I took the New Mexico Cosmetology Board examination and received my license. I can say I was really scared.
Married to Clifford Romero soon after graduation, our family grew with the additions of Yolanda and Clifford Jr. Due to living expenses and with a desire to have furniture, a car and to give my children a better opportunity I went to work. My first job in Cosmetology was at the Roswell Beauty Shop and it was difficult due to the fact Spanish people were just beginning to be hired in the beauty business. My boss, Mrs. Lizzie Porter, was a fine lady and saw no difference so I was given a good opportunity. Worked long hours because at that time the boss was the boss.
In 1952, in order to be close to my family, we built an extra room on to the house where I opened my beauty shop. I was lucky to have a nice car to mortgage in order to buy used beauty equipment. Fortunately, and with gratitude to them, my customers followed and helped me. My customers advised and were good to me.
My husband divorced me in 1964 and I was left with the debt of bills and the expense of establishing the Continental Coiffure Academy of Beauty. It was a very ‘strenuous time, and I was so grateful for all the support that Jackie and James Allen gave me. It was also very hard because the children had a difficult time adjusting to the change. I was lucky, with God's help, that I was able to educate my children. My son went to N.M.M.I. and my daughter to St. Joseph College in Albuquerque.
In 1968 I married Leon Stephens and thanks to this wonderful person who has stood beside me and helped me. We even took five children, during different years, to help them to complete their education and graduate: Tommy Philips, who has passed; Kate Morgan, living in Arizona; Richard Morgan, living in Roswell; and Ron Helms, who has passed and his brother Daryl Helm passed away. These children were a gift to us, and we were happy for their success. I joined the Cosmetology Association of Roswell, and over the years have worked hard with this organization, starting from the office of Trustee on to President of the Affiliate, Number 3 of Roswell.
I was appointed by Governor Simns to serve on the New Mexico State Board of Cosmetology. It was my duty to travel all over the State to inspect the Beauty shops, and to give and grade the State examinations. It was all quite an experience, especially the first examination I was to give. With no previous knowledge or experience as to the proper procedures I was left on my own to perform this function. I went to the State office requesting assistance only to be denied any and informed that it was all my responsibility. I asked the Custodian to help me and he did, but to compound the pressure we had an observer to oversee the examination to make sure it was given correctly. The exam was a success and an experience I never forgot. I can say one thing, when the situation appears to be difficult or against you, give it the very best of your abilities, it will work out.
Elected as a Trustee to New Mexico Cosmetology Association, I was immediately assigned to update and renew the By-Laws of the State Association. My service as Trustee lasted six years, I had also served two years as Historian, and one as Vice-President. In 1962 I was elected to a two-year term as President, this was repeated in 1986. I won the New Mexico Coiffure Guild Competition in Hairdressing and was honored to compete on the National level in Houston Texas. Even though I did not win, it was truly an experience to compete at the national level. President Joseph Weir, of the National Cosmetology, appointed me to serve on the regional Committee of the National Cosmetology Month which covered four States, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado and New Mexico. We traveled to Oklahoma and Colorado to inform the membership of new ideas and to help the affiliates. This too was a great experience, we learned so much, met new friends, and by working together we became close which brought to the States mutual benefits.
I was honored by being elected by the National Cosmetology Association (N.C.A.) to serve on their Board. During my travels to the Board meetings, held in St Louis, Missouri, I had the opportunity to visit the N.C.A. office, where I learned how the business office was managed. It was interesting to see the Public Relation office, Shipping and Membership Departments, and how our cosmetology magazine was published: I feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity. Because of my experiences I feel at ease when I call the National office for information. My name is on a plaque at the N.C.A. office for the accomplishments that have been made’ New Mexico. In 1964 I built the Continental Coiffure Academy of Beauty, and trained students in Cosmetology. It was a rewarding education to see that our students received an education and were placed in employment in the Cosmetology business in Roswell and elsewhere. As part of our program, we trained the High School students that were in Decca to receive credit for their education. I sold the Academy in 1984, after running the school for twenty years. Even though the students would be missed, I recognized the effects of the chain schools, moving into our State, would have. A school ran by one individual required a lot of money, a problem that the chains did not have to deal with. During the days of my Academy, I also served on the National Accreditation for Cosmetology Schools. We accredited schools for Texas, Colorado, and Arizona, this was another exciting experience.
The New Mexico Coiffure Guild is the committee which is the educator for the Cosmetology Association. It is responsible for providing educational, opportunities to the professional membership. I have served with the Guild as its Chairperson and as of May 1993, I was elected the Secretary, which consists of the duties to help the Chairperson to make her year a success, and to keep the minutes. We have several educational activities during the year which include: the State Trade Show, seminars, and the State
Conventions, which all required time and travel to various areas within New Mexico. In 1993 we have had two seminars in Roswell and one in Albuquerque. I have received the Leadership Cosmetology Award at the State and National levels. Competition against the other states is stiff, but it’s a special occasion at the National Convention.
June 1993 I was honored in having my picture and article in the American Hairdressers Magazine that is published every month. This magazine is issued to each member all over the United States. This helps to encourage the membership to receive recognition.
I have customers that have been with me for twenty-five years, who are now Senior Citizens. When they get sick, I help them especially if they have no family. One of my customers went to the Nursing Home, I helped her for five years. She never looked sick because her hair was well kept, and I also took her out for fresh air. I feel my customers have helped me by their loyalty and the opportunity they have given me to educate my children. I feel that my love for my profession was a gift.
In 1979 I was asked to run on the Citizen Ticket for City Council. It was very interesting to campaign, and especially when your opponent looks at you and nearly says "What are you doing here?" It possessed me to work hard, to spend much time campaigning and attending gatherings that the Citizen Ticket plus the opponents were to speak at. However, I felt like I was going down the drain when my opponent ruffled my feathers, but when it was my turn to speak, I was ready. In no time my speech out did his.
It was a thrill that the Citizen Ticket and I won. I was one of two women that ran for the position of City Council and won, we were the first women to achieve this accomplishment. The Mayor appointed me to be in charge of the Sanitation Dept. Committee, and place me on the Airport Committee. Serving on the Community Action Program, I helped the people whose homes needed repairs, windows, bathrooms, electricity, roofing etc. This was through Government Grants to the city specifically for this project. During this time, I also had the opportunity to help by being part of the advisors for the Water Rights to ensure that our city had water for future use. I always felt that this was an important project in which City Manager worked with me. It was an education to see the city government process at work. I had been a member of Altrusa International since 1977. During my term as Chairperson of the International Committee saw to it that children in Mexico received their education, clothing and Christmas presents. I served three years on this committee under three different presidents.
Also served on the local Community Committee, helped to provide gifts for young people for their Christmas, and helped with the Battered Woman Program. During the Home Show as an Altrusan I worked to raise funds for the club to help our community.
I was a member of St. Peter's Church and Chairperson of their Fund-Raising Committee. With a group of twelve members we organize the preparation, decoration, food, and games for the Mardi Gras. At the latest, held in February in 1993, we raised $6,000. I had helped with this fund raising for three years. At present time I had joined the Church Choir.
I served the second year on the Board of Lend-a-Hand. It is rewarding to see the different churches working together to raise funds for the poor. We worked with the Salvation Army, Community Action Program, Outreach Program, the Good Samaritan, and the Community Kitchen. This was also my second year on the Fund-Raising Committee.
As a member of The Friends of the Library I also served on the Board. We raised funds for the library to buy essential things which they need. We sold donated books to the public who take advantage of purchasing them at low fees. We also gave a Staff appreciation dinner. I was on my third year serving as President of Chaves County Democrat Woman, I was re-elected May 8, 1993. At the May 15, 1993, Democrat Convention dinner, I received a certificate of appreciation for helping President Clinton to be elected.
1993 - 1995
I was elected President for the Democrat Women of Chaves County for the third term. My term ended in May and then served as Treasurer for the Democrat Women.
During my term membership has increased with active members, I helped the Candidates, and attended the Democrat Convention in Albuquerque. Treasurer of the Roswell Affiliate of Cosmetology and worked hard to help our Association. Attended the National Cosmetology Association Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. Assisted with Garage Sales to help Boys Ranch of New Mexico, and the Primary Health Care Center that will opened in Roswell.
As an Associate Member of the Primary Health Care Center, which opened in July, I had worked on this project for two years laying the Foundation, attending City Council Meetings, visiting with the Eastern New Mexico Medical Board and the County Commissioner to acquire help. Also attended the Legislation Session in January to visit with our Representatives to help us acquire financing for the building. In June we received $250,000 that was passed by the House and Senate and was signed by our Governor King. The building is equipped with medical equipment. Board member of the friends of the Library and while I was the Fund Raising chairman we searched to bring an Author to raise Funds and we also ordered Bags with a Picture of the Library on them.
Also, a member of Saint Peter's Church Choir and sang every Sunday at the 11:00 am Mass. During Lent we sang Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday for Holy Week. September Chaired the Dinner for Fund Raising Committee, and we raised $1,000. I was on the Board of Lend-a-Hand, which is composed of the Community Kitchen, Good Samaritan, Salvation Army, Out-Reach Program and Community Action Program. I was a Altrusa and serve on the Community Committee which meets the first Wednesday of each month at the different local Agencies to learn what they provide and of their needs. These agencies are Taboosa, Child Care Provides, Battered Women and University High School. We provided needed books for the School Library. To the Battered Women we helped with sheets, blankets, towels, and toys for the children. During the month of May we held the "Home Show" which was our big money project that provides the funds so we could help fill the needs.
Lovely written by: Blanche Stephens
Blanche was preceded in death by her husband Leon “Steve” Stephens. She is survived by her daughter Yolanda Edgett and son Clifford “Skeeter” Romero; grandchildren Lisa Winchester, Stephen Edgett, Joshua Romero, Alex Romero and Matthew Romero. As well as her great grandchildren Blake Winchester, Brian Winchester, Patrick Edgett and James Edgett; great-great grandchildren Cynthia Romero, Lilyana Romero, Jared and Jaxon Winchester.
We wish to acknowledge and thank Lianca Gonzalez, Maria Roblas and the staff of Imaging and Gentiva Hospice.
A viewing will be held from 1:00 to 5:00pm, Friday, June 2, 2023 at Ballard Funeral Home with a rosary to follow at 6:00pm at St. Peters Catholic Church. Mass will be held at 10:00am, Saturday, June 3, 2023 at St. Peters Catholic Church with burial to follow at South Park Cemetery.
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