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Los Alamos changed a lot since Kathleen “Kay” Manley first arrived in 1943. She watched the town evolve from a secret place that was hidden from the map to an official county of New Mexico. She saw muddy roads become paved streets and neighborhoods appear.
But Kay did not passively watch these changes from the sidelines; she helped to nurture the local community in several areas including music.
This is why Kay, who died June 30 at Sombrillo Nursing Home, should be celebrated. She lived a complete life and created an impact on Los Alamos that should not fade away.
Kay lived to be 102 years old.
She always seemed to be one of Los Alamos’ older residents. When Kay first arrived in Los Alamos with her husband, John and her two daughters, Kathleen and Kim, she was a 30-year-old in a town dominated by 20-somethngs.
Kathleen said her mother often advised and mentored the younger wives as they came to Los Alamos.
Kay provided more than mentoring to the town. She earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of British Columbia and did advanced degree work at Columbia University.
In Los Alamos, Kay worked as a computor at the laboratory.
Her influence extended beyond the laboratory. Kay always excelled in musical performance and therefore she was a soprano soloist for a performance of Handel’s “Messiah.”
Kay also served as a director for the Los Alamos Choral Society from 1948-1951 and from 1959-1961.
Plus, she directed the productions “H.M.S. Pinafore” and “The Pirates of Penzance.”
Kathleen said music was her mother’s most significant contribution to the community. “I certainly think the music (was her major contribution.) Partly because from the choral society, we now have in the community the Light Opera, Sinfonietta and the Little Theatre and we still have the Choral Society.”
Besides music, Kay also helped found the Los Alamos Garden Club, which Kathleen said was an “important part of her life.” Plus, she and John were also long-time members of the Unitarian-Universalist Church of Los Alamos.
Being active in the community made Kay appreciate Los Alamos. Kathleen said, “I think the camaraderie” was what Kay liked most about the town.
She added Kay loved the informal music. In a town shut off from the rest of the world, residents made their own entertainment.
A love for music was one of Kay’s many strong qualities.
“Certainly, her enjoyment to music – her dedication to it. I think she has a really strong sense of doing right. It was important to her to do what right for other people. She came from a large family and I think that was quite a formable experience for her.”
Kay was born in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada in May 1907. She was the youngest of eight children.
Kathleen explained her mother’s siblings and parents served as role models. “I think some of her brothers and sisters were very successful academically, musically and her parents, too. She had that around her as a model.”
Kathleen said her mother’s older brother was a medic in the Canadian military in WWI and she thinks that experience was also influential to Kay.
WWI was supposed to be the war that would “end all wars,” and Kathleen said, “I think it was a great disappointment to her that it wasn’t.”
Moving from Canada to New Mexico was a positive change for Kay, her daughter said.
“I think she enjoyed New Mexico even though she came from a very different climate.”
With such a dynamic mother, there is lot of things Kathleen said she will always remember.
Her contributions to the music in the community, the pride she had for her community and her love for education.
Plus, she said with a smile, “she was very stubborn.”
Having such a person in the community calls for a celebration and therefore, An Afternoon Tea/Open House Celebrating the Life of Kay Manley will be held from 2-3:30 p.m. July 30 at Sombrillo Nursing and Rehabilitation.
If people are interested in making a donation in Kay’s honor, they can donate to the Los Alamos Choral Society, Los Alamos Historical Society, the Unitarian-Universalist Church of Los Alamos or Sombrillo Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.