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Taos, New Mexico USA

 

 

 

    PROFESSOR CHARLES ADAMS

   A MEMORIAL SERVICE AND A CELEBRATION OF HIS LIFE

                 THURSDAY, JUNE 19, 2008     3:30 – 5:00 PM

          THE TAM ALUMNI CENTER

 

Charles Adams, one of the crucial figures in UNLV's early history, died on May 16th.  He was born in Joliet, Illinois, May 11, 1929.  He earned his B.A. from Michigan State, his M.A. from the University of Illinois, and his Ph.D. from the University of Oregon.  He was a veteran of the U.S. Army.  UNLV hired him in 1960 and he retired as a professor of English in 1999.

About his hiring, he said in an interview with the UNLV Alumni Association, "I liked the idea of a young school.  All of us were committed to the growth of this university.  In spite of the difficulties there was a remarkable quality of education offered during those first years.  We served a backlog of very bright people.  They were older, wanted an education, and took classes for fun. In one composition class all of my students with the exception of one were college graduates who enrolled because they wanted to study."

In 1964, Adams became the school's coordinator of graduate studies and ran UNLV's graduate program until 1971, developing many of the university's first master's programs.  He also served for many years as a faculty senator, both when faculty here still were part of the University of Nevada, Reno, Faculty Senate and afterward.

An example of his commitment to teaching was "the Adams method" in which he created his own system for teaching students grammar and, especially, punctuation.  Many secondary English teachers in the Clark County School District used it.  During a sabbatical, he taught a sixth grade class to extend his system into the lower grades and said, "I never worked so hard in my life.  I never knew two days in advance what I would be doing."

His specialty was modern literature, but he fell in love with the writings of Frank Waters, the southwestern novelist, essayist, biographer and non-fiction writer.  He taught a two-semester series of courses on Waters and was a founder of the Frank Waters Society and editor of its annual journal.  He edited Frank Waters:  A Retrospective Anthology (Swallow Press/Ohio University Press, 1985) and, with Waters, co-edited W.Y. Evans-Wentz's Cuchama and Sacred Mountains (same publisher, 1981).  He also published numerous articles on Waters and other literary topics in an assortment of journals.

 In a profile in the UNLV Alumni journal--he was the Alumni Distinguished Professor in 1989--he said, "I find it very exciting to be able to work with a living author."  Waters spoke in his classes and at UNLV's commencement, and Adams participated in numerous conferences and panels on, about, and with Waters.

 He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Joan; his daughter, Rebecca, of Ojai, California, and his son, Stephen, an associate professor in the department of Educational Psychology, Administration, and Counseling at California State University, Long Beach, of Long Beach; and his grandchildren, Luke and Claire Sowa; and his brother Thomas of Toledo, Ohio.

 

  

                              A Fitting Farewell

                                            by Barbara Waters

Those with ties to Old Taos turned out en masse for the funeral on March 11, 2000, of Rowena Meyers Martinez at Taos Presbyterian Church.   She and her first husband, Ralph Meyers, had been close friends of Frank’s.  Ralph became trader “Rodolfo Byers” in The Man Who Killed the Deer, and Rowena was “Angelina.”  Ralph’s former Indian trading post is now called El Rincon, an Indian jewelry shop and museum run by his widow until a few years ago when Rowena’s family took over after she developed Alzheimer’s disease. 

 

Although she remained a lovely woman inside and out until her death at age 90, early photos and paintings show Rowena to have been a rare beauty.  This was verified at the funeral service by an early charcoal drawing of her done by Nicolai Fechin and appearing on the program.  She had posed for other early Taos artists, such as Herbert “Buck” Dunton and Ward Lockwood.  An outsize painting by Julian Robles of an older Rowena was set on an easel beside the pulpit of the church.  

                                                        

 

At one time, according to Rowena, a special chemistry had existed between her and Frank.  In 1990 at a Taos Press Women’s luncheon honoring him, she read some friendly letters from Frank, which she called “love letters.”  And she said, “Frank Waters and I would have been married long ago; but every time he was free, I was married.  And when I was free, he was married again.”

 

When I asked Frank if he and Rowena had ever been this close, he replied, “I couldn’t hear a word that woman said just now.”

 

As she did most people, Rowena had greeted me warmly whenever I visited her shop.  Most of my good jewelry came from there.  From her extensive collection of antique clothes, she once loaned me a doeskin Indian dress for a costume event and provided Frank with some historic headwear that made he and I laugh when he modeled it, especially the Abe Lincoln stovepipe hat.

 

I wondered if Frank’s spirit would be present at the funeral.  When it is nearby, some bizarre coincidence usually substantiates my feeling.  Sure enough, though I arrived ten minutes early, the only remaining seat was one person away from his third wife, whom I like.  Then that person between us had a coughing fit and left, so Rose and I ended up together.  It seemed as Frank wanted his harem clustered this way. 

 

Afterwards when I went out to my new red car in the crowded parking lot, right next to it was parked our old red Acura.  Symbolically, it looked as though Frank and I were once again side by side, together for Rowena’s send-off.   This 1989 Acura had once been our second car, second in line after his 1966 Ford Galaxie.  As he had weakened, more and more he came to rely on the passenger’s headrest in the Acura for napping and relaxing while on long trips or running errands.  His Galaxie lacked this luxury.  By chance, I’d recently sold the Acura to one of Rowena’s grandsons, who was determined to have what he called “Frank’s car.”

 

As Rowena’s closed casket was wheeled in, I felt a chill at its beauty and could almost hear Frank’s spirit whisper, as he himself would have done, “Thank god!  A simple pine box at last.”  A work of art by Jonathon Waugh, its flattened top had been polished to a golden sheen, its corners tightly notched in a darker shade of wood, its six handles intricately woven in wrought iron.  Rowena, possibly the finest craftswoman in this town, must have approved. For a time, she had used it as a coffee table.

 

After the more standard sections of the service, a woman related one of Rowena’s anecdotes about an aunt.  “My widowed aunt in Santa Fe lived to be so old that it worried her.  She was afraid of what her husband would say in heaven when she showed up there looking so ancient,” Rowena had said.  “But what about me?  I have two husbands -- Ralph and Paul -- waiting there for me!”

 

As always at a Taos funeral, the anecdotes and the accolades were the best part, in my opinion.  For instance, her niece Barbara McCarthy recalled that in her younger days Rowena had almost eloped with a man named Cheatham.  “They set out to get married, but got only as far as Ranchos de Taos south of town when the car began acting up.  It wouldn’t go, except in reverse.  So they drove all the way back to town in reverse, and never got married.”

 

The music was some of Rowena’s favorites: “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” sung by her grandsons; “I Come to the Garden Alone (He walks with me, and He talks with me),” sung by her friends; and “Little Indians,” a flute, guitar, and vocal piece featuring Taos Pueblo’s Robert Mirabal accompanied by Rowena’s grandson Estevan.

 

Through Ralph, who died in 1948, Rowena had been closely associated with Native Americans; she learned their silversmithing craft from him and passed it on to several generations.  The couple also wove fine blankets in the Navajo tradition.  Married in 1932, they operated the original La Dona Luz Restaurant and the Mission Shop trading post.  They had two children, Ouray and Nina.  Rowena and her second husband, Paul Martinez, had a son Michael, or “Cinco,” who died in a plane crash with his two daughters.  On and off between 1930 and 1970, she worked for the forest service. People still speak admiringly of her knowledge in this field.

 

Nina recalls that as a child she had a crush on Frank.  She frequently rode on his shoulders as he danced with women partners.  Frank  remembered Rowena’s kids roller-skating around the living room table in what would more than once be La Dona Luz Restaurant, named after a shady lady who lived there in the 19th century.  Ouray thinks he has several times heard old Ralph’s ghost clumping around this same historic room.

 

The memorial service program stated, “Rowena loved the history of Taos.  It was her passion.  She was a walking encyclopedia of Taos history.  She wrote a study of Spanish land grants and a history of  Taos Presbyterian Church.  Many Taoseños participated in the historical fashion shows she presented, showcasing the three cultures of Taos.  Rowena was often asked to speak to groups about local history and lore, where she charmed her audiences with her wit and anecdotes of early times in Taos.”

 

In 1978 Taos County Historical Society honored her for her contributions to the community.  She received the “First Lady of the West” award in 1987, and in 1999 became a “Taos Living Treasure.”  She is buried in Taos’ Sierra Vista Cemetery.

 

Rowena’s family regretted that Frank could not speak at her funeral.  Nevertheless, we can take some of his words written at the time of Ralph Meyers’ death and transpose them into the feminine, for they are just as true of Ralph’s widow:

           

                                    She loved this country and its many people.

                                    She loved it so well that she lived it fully

                                    and completely, with an integrity that was

                                    never shaken.  Now she belongs to the

                                    earth.  She is a part of those traditions she

                                    nurtured so carefully, those living traditions

                                    that still exist here in Taos, and will continue

                                    to live on.  This is the inheritance she leaves

                                    to us to share as she is laid to rest in the

                                    shadow of that mountain which falls over us all.

                                   

                                                                

                                Ralph Meyers (click to enlarge)                                 

 

 

From a letter to Rowena Meyers from Frank Waters
Los Angeles, California, July 24, 1948
 

"Ralph's death has not only taken one of the few friends I have treasured but it has suddenly sheared away the basis of a fragment of my own character -- a vision of a life I always saw through his eyes, a gentleness and strength that never failed me, a part, a real part of my own life.  You know how much he meant to so many of us in so many different ways -- the Indians, the Spanish-Americans, our own small group -- each of whom he understood so well and loved so devotedly.  Ralph loved this country and its many people.  He painted it well, he wrote about it well, he understood it as few ever have.  But above all he loved it so well that he lived it fully and completely, with an integrity that was never shaken.  Now he belongs to that earth, those people who expressed themselves through him.  He is a part of those traditions he nurtured so carefully, those living traditions that still exist here in Taos, and will continue to live on.  That is the inheritance he leaves to us to share.  And that is the small tribute that I would like to offer when he is laid to rest in the shadow of that mountain which falls over us all."
 
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