Living Treasures to be honored April 21

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It is once again time to invite northern New Mexicans to celebrate the contributions of those who have so greatly enhanced life on the Hill. Living Treasures of Los Alamos will honor Lee A. Builta, Rosmarie H. Frederickson and Craig Martin at 2 p.m. April 21 at the Betty Ehart Senior Center.  The public is invited to attend the ceremony and reception, sponsored by the Los Alamos National Bank.

Profiles will be published in the Los Alamos Monitor, beginning Thursday.


Lee A. Builta

Everyone who has enjoyed the roses at the Los Alamos Memorial Rose Garden, the Los Alamos Demonstration Garden or the LDS Church in White Rock owes a debt of thanks to Lee A. Builta. He tends and prunes the roses in all three locations. He cares for hundreds of rose bushes in the three locations, 500 at the Memorial garden alone.

Builta began gardening at a young age on his family’s farm in south central Kansas. Builta is one of 11 siblings, seven boys and four girls. Lee is the fourth youngest.

 The family raised wheat and had dairy cattle. The farm work was done with horses and until the family moved to an 80 acre farm in Missouri when Lee was 12, they had no electricity.

Lee’s mother was the family gardener and it was his job to help her.

“My mom was a great gardener,” Builta said. “She loved roses. If you can grow roses in Kansas, you can grow them anywhere.” Builta and his mom maintained a two acre vegetable garden. The family also had three acres of strawberries.

“When we weren’t milking cows or baling hay we were picking strawberries,” Builta remembered. “My dad’s strawberries were so good he’d get letters from around the country from people who had enjoyed them.”

Builta attended one- and two-room schools during grade school, but graduated in a class of about one hundred in 1953. His brother Abe was living in Oregon and Builta joined him and found work in the lumber industry in 1953. He later joined the Navy in 1955 and found his calling as an electronics technician, a career he would pursue for most of his life.

Upon returning home, Builta met Janis Stephens, his future wife, and decided not to re-enlist. The two were married in 1960. The couple worked two jobs apiece so Builta could attend the Oregon Institute of Technology and get an associate degree in electronics technology. A job offer from Los Alamos National Laboratory brought them to Los Alamos in 1964.

“I took lots of classes during my career, but I never wanted to get a BA. That would have meant sitting at a desk,” Builta said. “Being hands on is a lot more fun.”

Builta retired from LANL in 1993, but returned first as a visiting scientist and then as a contract employee. He turned in his badge for good in 1998.

Lee and Janis raised two children, Kerry Ann and Charles, in Los Alamos while pursuing their careers at LANL. The couple was married for 50 years. Janis passed away in 2010.

“Janis loved roses,” Builta said. “I built a large rose garden at our house on Grand Canyon.” Local rose grower Marvin Luster got the Builtas interested in showing roses. “I raised the roses and Janis showed them. All roses look good to me,” Builta said.

In 1994, Builta took the Master Gardener Class offered through the Los Alamos County Extension Office. He and three other newly minted Master Gardeners founded the Los Alamos Master Gardener Club. Builta has been an active member of the club since that time.

He helps the Los Alamos Garden Club with a rose pruning demonstration each April.  “Everyone has a rose bush or two they need to learn how to take care of,” Builta said. “With the assistance of the current Master Gardner Class and community members who come to learn, we prune the roses at the Los Alamos Memorial Rose Garden.”  He has been invited to give many such demonstrations for other groups as well.

The Los Alamos Garden Club created and has maintained The Memorial Rose Garden since it was begun in the 1950s as a way to commemorate loved ones as there was no cemetery in Los Alamos.  The Garden Club made Builta an honorary member as a way to thank him for his many hours of work pruning and fertilizing the roses, and, looking for ways to discourage the deer from eating them.

One of the first Master Gardener Club projects was to take on the landscaping, planting and maintenance of the Los Alamos Demonstration Garden in conjunction with Los Alamos County.  The Demonstration Garden was started in 1990 by Solveig Palanek, Los Alamos County Cooperative Extension Service Horticultural Agent at the time.

“With the club, you can maintain an experienced workforce for the Demo Garden,” Builta said. “People took on responsibility for different sections of the garden. I look after the roses and help with the pruning.”  Builta also helped build the large retaining wall at the west end of the garden, introduced raspberry plants there, trapped gophers and has taught gopher trapping classes.

Builta raises vegetables at the Los Alamos Community Garden as well as at his former White Rock home on Grand Canyon, where his son now lives, and his current home on Sherwood.  He grows everything from watermelons to corn.

“I end up with so much stuff I have to give it away to a good home,” Builta said.

He attributes some of his gardening success to the liberal use of compost. His family composted when he was growing up on the farm.

“We have a pretty big set up on Grand Canyon,” said Builta. “Many people in White Rock bring me their leaves.”

Builta uses plastic pipe to let air into his pile. He makes enough compost for use in his personal gardens and the one at the White Rock LDS Church. He has enough left over to use occasionally at the Demonstration and Memorial Gardens.

On Valentine’s Day 2012, Builta married Peggy Bradberry. Janis and Lee had been friends with Jim and Peggy Bradberry for many years. Jim died in 2009. Lee and Peggy are active volunteers at the White Rock LDS Church. One of their current projects is helping to index genealogical information maintained by   the LDS Church, whose digitized database will soon reach one billion names.  Having personally submitted over 65,000 names since October, it’s a big job.

 “Luckily, the computer chair is the most comfortable one in the house,” Builta said.

When not busy gardening or volunteering at the church, Builta is an avid birdwatcher and photographer.

With spring just around the corner, Builta can’t wait to get out in the garden. He has a long list of gardening chores to attend to, including pruning the hundreds of rosebushes under his care. He’ll always take time out, however, to offer gardening advice and share his enthusiasm for growing things, especially roses.

Rosmarie H.  Frederickson

Rosmarie H. Frederickson was born in Germany and came to the US at age 12. She is the daughter of scientist Werner W. Hohenner who was able to bring his family to the US after the war, and once here he was able to help develop the Polaris missile. The family moved several times, finally settling in the Washington DC area.  She attended Temple University for two years, coming home to help run the household because her mother was dying of cancer. She finished her education at the University of Maryland.  There she met her husband. After graduation she worked several years as a third grade teacher in the area, but again there were many moves in her future.

How did Fredrickson become an active volunteer in so many community organizations?

“Some people just don’t know how to say no,” she said laughing. “All of these things are important things to get done.  Being an active volunteer allows one to make new friends in a new community at the same time one is being helpful. This was very helpful to me to settle in, in each new location”

"I like numbers and careful work" she said, and maybe this is why Frederickson seems to end up as treasurer of every organization she’s involved in.

Frederickson came to Los Alamos in 1980 when her mathematician husband Paul joined Los Alamos National Laboratory to work in supercomputing. Her four children were becoming more independent and she was ready for a new challenge.  She was accepted into the Women in Science Reentry Program at UNM-LA.  Inspired by her husband's career in computers, she decided to become a computer engineer, earning first an associate and then a BS in Computer Engineering from the University of New Mexico.  A work-study position at EGG  led to a permanent assignment. With some interruptions in service  to follow her husband to Norway, Germany and California she continued her career at EGG  until turning her badge last December.

The first volunteer activity in Los Alamos was with the Los Alamos Aquatomics   Margie, Jim and Howard were all swimmers and Fredrickson traveled with the swim team on trips and served as a timekeeper and stroke and turn judge.

Frederickson has long been involved in the Los Alamos Branch of the American Association of University Women.   The focus of AAUW is to promote education for all, and on women's issues such as pay equity. Frederickson served on the AAUW board for over a decade and as treasurer for five years. She helped coordinate a state convention in Los Alamos, and as Public Policy Chair kept the group informed on political issues. On the State board,  as the Funds' Chair she helped the New Mexico AAUW raise $60,000 for the Corrine Wolfe Endowment Scholarship. Corrine Wolfe, a real New Mexico activist, espoused education and social issues. She is the only woman to have a portrait in the Round House.  Corrine has always been an inspiration to Frederickson.

One of the AAUW activities Fredrickson has enjoyed most  is to organize and help judge the annual Science Fair in the public schools.  She has done this for many years.  She also worked with others on teaching the "Reading Math" program, designed by an AAUW member to help youngster overcome  their fear of Math . She is also an active member of the AAUW Non-fiction Book Group.

Frederickson also served on the LA bus board, which helped to bring bus service to Los Alamos.  This was a volunteer activity before the County was able to take over the operation.

As a member of Bethlehem Lutheran Church she has taught Sunday School and Vacation Bible School and sang in the choir for many years

Fredrickson is a member of the Red Cross Disaster Assistance Team. “We help people cope,” she said. The Red Cross makes sure food and shelter is available to those facing a crisis situation such as a fire here in Los Alamos.  When the Red Cross opened  a shelter in Espanola a few years ago during an especially harsh winter she spent many hours keeping people fed and comfortable.

Currently, Fredrickson devotes most of her volunteer hours to the League of Women Voters where she serves as treasurer. This had been a busy year for the League with the election. There were many forums and a Voter's Guide each of which keeps many  volunteer  busy. 

Frederickson serves on the board of LA Cares, a small, independent organization, which provides help to the needy of Los Alamos County.  Financial aid, usually for rent or utility payments, is available once in a 12-month period.  LA Cares offers supplemental food assistance and holds food distributions once a month, It usually serves  between 80 and 100 families.   “Most of our food comes from donations,” said Fredrickson. “We partner with letter carriers and the Boy Scouts to collect non-perishables and many churches and organizations collect food for the food bank year around. “We also purchase food.” The organization raises funds through the annual Crop Walk and the Yum Run.

An avid gardener, Fredrickson is a Master Gardener. “Our house was on the Garden Tour during the 90s and we had 190 visitors,” Frederickson said. She sometimes works in the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden.  She has coordinated the Science Fair Judges for that organization

In support of her husband Paul's volunteer activities she has opened her home to International  Exchange Students and GSE team members. She has hosted many potluck suppers for the Rotary..

There are other things that do not involve volunteering she loves to do.  During the summer there are so many wonderful places to hike and during the winter there a wonderful cross country skiing opportunities.  She’s also enjoys cooking.

One of Fredrickson’s secrets to fitting in her many activities is not owning a television. She works to maintain her energy by staying in shape.


Craig Martin

When Craig Martin saw the column of smoke from the Cerro Grande Fire, he knew it would change his life.

“The first thing I picked up was my hammer. That was the first thing I put in my truck,” Martin said.

Thirteen years later, Martin has yet to lay down his tools. Fire mitigation and trail work became his passionate commitment, first as a volunteer and later as Open Space Specialist for Los Alamos County.

When the Cerro Grande Fire struck Los Alamos in 2000, Craig Martin was the right man in the right place at the right time. His unique experience as a biologist, educator, forester and ardent love for the out of doors equipped him to step up and take on the task of helping to organize work to mitigate fire damage to Los Alamos trails and open space and to help reduce the danger that another fire would devastate the community.

“I wish the fire hadn’t happened, but it did,” Martin said. “It’s made me who I am.”

“I’m happy I was able to help, Martin said. “My father taught me that when something needs to be done and there’s no one to do it, you need to step up.”

After the fire, Martin was contacted by US Geological Survey scientist John Hogan about forming an organization that would not only restore trails, but educate the community about fire ecology. Hogan, Laura Patterson, Gerry Washburn, and Martin developed the Volunteer Task Force.

“All we did in 2000 was trail restoration. It occupied us completely. John and I said to each other, let’s keep it going. We decided if we could get kids involved, they’d get the message to their parents.”

Working with Patterson and Washburn, the first project was with Mountain Elementary School. Students completely rebuilt the Quemazon Nature Trail, then turned to creating a nature trail guide. Over several years, students developed the text and illustrations for the guide. Tree planting in the burned area and the rebuilding of the Perimeter Trail continued through 2002.

Then there was the Seed Ball Project. In 2002-2003 kids would make and distribute 250,000 seed balls to replant the burned areas around Los Alamos.  Martin is famous in Los Alamos as the Seed Ball Guy.

“Kids I worked with years ago will come up to me and say, ‘Hey you’re the Seed Ball Guy. I worked on that and it was really great.’”

The Seed Ball Project gave the Task Force the opportunity to involve kids, adults and seniors in the restoration process, and to teach about fire ecology

Another Task Force project involved working with middle school students to collect data on on the effectiveness of the County’s Fuel Mitigation Project in Ponderosa pine forests. It was a true scientific research project with a real purpose, Martin said.

For his work with the Task Force on the trail system, as well as his organization of the planting of 28,000 pine seedlings in the burned area and the hand seeding of 43 acres, and organizing more than 3,000 volunteers Martin was awarded a 2001 National Volunteer of the Year Award from the Points of Light Foundation. In 2002, Martin received the Chief's Award from the United States Forest Service.

Martin attended the University of Delaware, intending to use his biology degree in a career with the National Park Service where he hoped to teach kids about that 1970s buzzword, ecology.

“I took a year off from school, and that turned out to be the most valuable part of my education,” Martin said. “I spent a year walking in the woods, learning by observation. I learned more about the woods doing that than in classes.”

After college, Martin, who comes from a family in the trades, spent two years as a house-framer. “Physical labor attracted me and also the idea of actually building something,” he said.

These two career paths would merge in Martin’s current job as Los Alamos Open Space Specialist, where he does a lot of physical work in addition to teaching kids and adults about the environment and helping to plan for the future of the County’s open space.

In 1987 Martin and his wife June were living in Tucson where June was in graduate school in hydrology. While in Tucson, Martin had worked for the National Park Service, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and taught science at a middle school. When the opportunity for June to have a post-doctoral appointment at Los Alamos National Laboratory came up, Craig learned that some great fly fishing was within 20 minutes of the laboratory and was sold on the idea at once.

“The first day we were here it snowed and we went out and bought cross-country skis,” Martin remembered. “We knew we were going to love it here.”

The couple’s daughter Jessica was a year old. They made the decision that Craig would stay home with Jessica while June worked. He would spend 15 years as a stay-at-home dad, doing all the housework and serving in the volunteer roles many stay-at-home moms assume, such as PTO president.

“We got a call from the Los Alamos New Comers Club Playgroup asking if my wife would be interested in joining. I asked them, what would you think if a man showed up for playgroup? Martin recalled. “That group opened up and let me in. I still have many good friends from those days.”

Martin wanted to do something for the kids in the playgroup and naturally, he thought of one of his own favorite pastimes—hiking. Soon he was leading regular one to one-half mile hikes for up to 35 kids and adults.

“There’s a rule that people only go hiking with Craig once,” Martin joked. “After that, they know better. I know the trail is over here, but something over there looks interesting and pretty soon it’s an adventure.”

After his son Alex as born in 1990, Martin felt the urge to “be an adult sometimes.” He began to work on a book project, rising at 5:30 a.m. before the family was awake to have two hours a day for writing. Martin has written 14 books, several in second and third editions. Martin has also written hundreds of articles and columns.

 He has written guide books for hikers, fly fishers, bikers and hot springs enthusiasts, making outdoor New Mexico more assessable to both locals and visitors. Of special interest to County residents are his guides to our town, including Los Alamos Trails and Los Alamos Mountain Bike Trails and Los Alamos Place Names. A number of his books are historical studies of Los Alamos and the surrounding area, including Of Logs and Stone: The Building of the Los Alamos Ranch School and Bathtub Row with Heather McClenahan and Valle Grande: A History of Baca Location No 1.

When Los Alamos County approached Martin about becoming its Open Space Specialist in 2003, he wasn’t sure if he wanted the job.

“They talked me into it, he said. When they asked me how they could help me do the job to the best of my ability, I said  just stay out of my way. They still wanted me. It’s been a good relationship for the past 10 years. There are things that can be accomplished from the inside that its hard to get done outside the structure of County government. I do have to go to a lot more meetings,” Martin mused.

The credibility Martin had established in the community has stood him in good stead in his role at the County. Getting County residents to accept proscribed burns is one example.

“People have gotten past the fear that we’ll burn their house down. I want to live here the rest of my life and I want to succeed in making Los Alamos as safe as possible from fire, even if we have to make it a little smokey once in awhile,” Martin said.

Helping to make Los Alamos a destination of tourists is another of Martin’s goals. “We have all the ingredients here, including year-round hiking in White Rock Canyon,” he said.

“June and I are obsessed with the outdoors,” Martin said. “We were spending all our weekends doing trailwork, which is okay some of the time, but I wanted to do something else besides what I do for a living.”

He found the answer in a jazz theory class at UNM-Los Alamos. Both Martin and his son Alex play the saxophone. During the class, Martin met others interested in playing jazz and they began to meet at his house in 2010. So was born the Craig Martin Experience. The seven-piece jazz combo now has about 20 gigs under their belt. Martin gets a kick out of being recognized as a jazz musician rather than for his other numerous roles in the community.

Currently, Martin serves on the boards of the Los Alamos Community Winds and the Friends of Bandelier. He has contributed hundreds of volunteer hours to the Los Alamos Historical Society, Pajarito Environmental Eduction Center, the Boy Scouts and many other community groups. In addition to continuing to volunteer in the community, Martin hopes to do  more traveling and have more weekend adventures when he retires.

Of course retirement probably won’t look all that different from his current job.

“Trail restoration is what I do for fun,” Martin said.  “Dorothy Hoard did trail work until she was 72. We’ll see if I can make it that long. I hope so.”