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“This is a historic day,” Los Alamos historian Nancy Bartlit said after accepting proclamations that recognize two women — Peggy Pond Church and Marjorie Bell Chambers – during the Los Alamos County Council meeting Tuesday night.
These women left a permanent mark on Los Alamos, which will be symbolized in two historic roadside markers that will be dedicated at 1:30 p.m. Friday at the corner of 20th Street and Trinity Drive. A reception will follow at Fuller Lodge.
It seems Bartlit’s statement was true; it was a historic day. Pond Church and Bell Chambers made many contributions that not only spread throughout Los Alamos, but also the state and the country.
Pond Church was the daughter of Ashley Pond, the founder of the Los Alamos Ranch School. She married the Ranch School Master, Fermor Spencer Church, and they raised their children in Los Alamos. Bartlit said Pond Church’s three sons will attend the dedication ceremony Friday. Besides being a wife and a mother, Pond Church was also an author. She wrote “The House at Otowi Bridge,” and co-authored along with her husband, “When Los Alamos was a Ranch School.”
Ten volumes of poetry, a biography and two children’s book were also penned by Pond Church.
As a result of her work, Pond Church earned the Santa Fe County Living Treasure title, was a 1984 recipient of the Governor’s Award for Excellence and
Achievement in the Arts and was called the First Lady of New Mexican Poetry but Southwest literature critic David Laird.
Pond Church earned many accolades and awards, but the thing her son, Ted Church hopes everyone remembers her for is “that she lived there and she was considered a great poet.”
Church will attend the dedication ceremony along with other members of his family.
During the ceremony, he said he will read one of his mother’s works, “Familiar Journey.” He explained she wrote it in 1934. Writing was something that Pond Church was inspired to do as a little girl, Church said.
She was publishing poems when she was 15, he said. “She just had it in her.”
Not only is the marker “another step in the procession,” Church said, but his mother’s marker will be beside a friend of hers, Bell Chambers.
Bell Chambers was a Los Alamos Living Treasure, a longtime Los Alamos resident, educator, author and historian of the Atomic Energy Commission.
She belonged to the Los Alamos Branch of the American Association of University Women, the Los Alamos Historical Society, the Los Alamos Garden Club, the League of Women Voters, the Girl Scouts, the New Mexico Women’s Forum and the Republican Party.
She was elected twice to the county council and ran for New Mexico Lt. Governor and Congress. Plus, she traveled the world as a People to People Ambassador.
Bell Chambers’ active participation in Los Alamos, the state and the country influenced others around her.
Councilor Nona Bowman, who has served on council for two terms, said she was honored to meet Bell Chambers during her first year living in Los Alamos. Bowman said Bell Chambers, along with Bartlit, encouraged her to get involved in the community.
“Majorie Bell Chambers was a wonderful woman,” Bowman said.
Bell Chambers’ husband, Bill, said, “I guess I hope people here will remember her as she was. She was a very intelligent lady and accomplished many things and I hope they will have a good memory of her.”
In looking at her very active involvement in the community and throughout the state, Chambers said, “I think Marjorie was a role model for many of the women who followed her and followed her careers over the years and I hope her example would stay with people. She was many things, (but) she was a teacher and a mentor and I certainly hope that is way she is remembered.”