Milagro HeartIn spring, a young man’s fancy turns to love. Saint Valentine himself was a martyr in ancient Rome, but it is unclear how his name became associated with “Valentine’s Day.” In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius established the Feast of Saint Valentine on February 14th as a day of remembrance of the Saint. Some of the earliest specific references to this day occur in the 14th century when Geoffrey Chaucer writes in the Parlement of Foules: “For this was on Valentine’s Day, where every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”

Shakespeare referenced Valentine’s Day in Hamlet in the early 17th century. Still, it was not until the 18th and 19th centuries in England and America that the tradition emerged of sending beautifully decorated handmade love notes to the object of one’s affection. Soon, candy, chocolate, and gifts became part of the celebration, and that was when what we now know as Valentine’s Day flourished and indeed became a “national holiday.” Unfortunately, Valentine’s Day card’s commercialization has taken the individuality and creativity out of these cards. But people young and old still love receiving a Valentine. At least I still do.

In an attempt to honor the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we have picked six unique couples from Santa Fe whose love for one another has not gone unnoticed in our beautiful and romantic city of the Holy Faith.


Jesus Rios and Teresa Gabaldon

Valentines Day Couples of Santa FeThis couple met in Santa Fe in 1934. Jesus had come up from San Jose de la Boca, Durango, Mexico when he was nine years old, and Teresa was born here on East DeVargas Street. Their love-at-first-sight romance turned into a life-long marriage of 65 years. During these happy years, they started a family of eight children, and a thriving, successful business, the Rios wood yard on Camino del Monte Sol.

There are few aspects of Santa Fe that were not touched by the Rios family who contributed significantly to the betterment of their community and the well-being of their family. Their relationship was a loving, reliable and unshakeable partnership to the end of their lives together. El Museo Cultural proudly displays a memorial to the Rios family.


Sam and Ethel Ballen

Sam and EthelSam and Ethel Ballen bought the La Fonda Hotel in 1968 and saved it from possible demolition for a parking lot. Their contributions to our City Different included vital support of SWAIA, The College of Santa Fe, The Lensic Performing Arts Center, The United Way, Santa Fe Community Foundation, St. Vincent’s Hospital, Temple Beth Shalom, The Food Depot, among many others. Their leadership in so many significant civic and charitable efforts have helped make Santa Fe what it is today.

From daughter Lenore: “Mom and Dad met in their college days. My mother, who died on 2/5/06, went to Hunter College. Dad, who died on 2/6/07, went to City College. These schools were part of the City Colleges system in New York. They got married on 7/29/45 while Dad was on leave from the service in what was a quickly planned wedding. Their marriage lasted 61 years. On one of our family trips to Alaska, in honor of Mom and Dad’s 80th birthdays, one of the people on our eco-cruise asked Dad, “ How do you stay married to someone for so long?” Dad’s reply was, “to have a short memory and a big sense of humor.” I remember Mom saying, “you have to forgive and forget.” After talking to Penina, one of my sisters, we recall our parents doing a lot of fun and adventurous activities together. They also had a huge social life. We believe that combining the principles of “forgive, forget, and humor,” with the three elements of “fun, adventure, and a great support system” help create a successful long marriage. That’s their secret.


Bill and Nancy Zeckendorf

No couple has had a larger or more significant impact on the performing arts in Santa Fe than Bill and Nancy Zeckendorf, both through their leadership, commitment, and love for the Santa Fe Opera, and their vision and creation of The Lensic Performing Arts Center. Bill’s experience and business acumen also assured the survival of both the College of Santa Fe (now known as Santa Fe University of Art & Design) and St. Vincent’s Hospital. Along with their support of countless other civic and philanthropic activities, these activities make them two of Santa Fe’s most valuable citizens.

Says Nancy: The secret of a long-married life was given to me by one of my teachers at Julliard who happened to be the mentor of Martha Graham. “It’s all good until there are two tubes of toothpaste on the sink.”

Taking that to heart, I never intruded on my husband’s space. Luckily, we were blessed with two bathrooms and lots of closets. It worked. The other important thing is to stop expecting that, “he should have done this, she should have done that.” You grow up when you stop expecting things from other people. That might also serve for sons and daughters who carry grudges too long. So Bill and I have just celebrated 50 years!”


Alex Hanna and Yon Hudson

Alex and YonIn mid-April of 2000, Alex Hanna & Yon Hudson met at A Bar (soon to become Bar B), where Yon was DJ-ing at the 40th birthday party of a mutual friend. After a brief courtship (Yon is a romantic), they began dating. Following a year that brought many significant life events (death, injury, etc.), they decided to move in together.

After eight years and many trips abroad together, Alex & Yon purchased their 1st home. In 2013, they (along with their legal team of Egolf, Ferlic & Day) became successfully involved with changing New Mexico state law, which now provides same-sex couples the right to marry.

Alex & Yon do not take this right for granted. The opportunity for ALL people to openly share their love and commitment with family & friends was a dream that seemed insurmountable only a few years ago. To be a part of such an enormous social achievement is humbling.


Lew and Susan Wallace

WallacesLew Wallace is, perhaps, best known today as the author of Ben Hur. His most relevant role for us, however, was in his position as Governor of the New Mexico Territory. A former civil war general, renowned author, world traveler, and governor of the NM territory during the Lincoln County War, Wallace himself wrote towards the end of his life of the most vivid and important memories of his life.

A full fifty years prior: “I can blow the time aside lightly as smoke from a cigar and have the return of that evening with Miss Elston, and her blue eyes, wavy hair, fair face, girlish manner, delicate person, and witty flashes to vivify it.” The great love and passion of Lew Wallace’s life was his wife.

Susan Arnold Elston was a remarkable woman. Born to a wealthy and influential East Coast family, Susan was of a literary temperament and published many popular poems. Her family disapproved of the young military suitor who was smitten by the witty and beautiful Susan. Despite this, Susan and Lew married for love.

Following Lew’s service in the Civil War, he was appointed governor of the New Mexico territory in 1878. Hired by the Eastern newspapers to send back brief sketches of life in the territory, but too busy with the administration of the territory and writing of Ben Hur, Lew delegated the job to Susan. Her articles became very popular. They were collected and illustrated by Lew and published as The Land of the Pueblos. This book remains a valuable and fascinating record of Puebloan life in the 19th century and can be read online here.

Lew was given an ambassadorship to the Ottoman Empire, and he and Susan traveled together then throughout the Middle East. She wrote several more books and was influential in exploring the ‘women’s issues’ of the period. She collaborated with Lew extensively throughout their lives, assisting him with writing and dictation. Throughout his long life, he remained in love and wrote, “What of success has come to me, all that I am, in fact, is owing to her.”


Phil and Emilie Schepps

Phil and Emilie ScheppsThese two spent many, many wonderful times in Santa Fe, visiting both their son, me, and their grandchildren Mike and Julie, as well as the countless friends of ours who they made their own. My Dad recalls visiting Bishop’s Lodge in the 1920s with his parents and 2 sisters and hiding from them when it was time to leave, as he loved it here so much. Between service in Europe and an order to report for Pacific duty in 1945, he drove through Santa Fe en route to the West Coast, stopping at Camel Rock for a striking photo when you could still stand at the very base.

Phil and Emilie met in high school in Dallas in the 1930s and fell in love immediately. But family influences drove them to marry others. Fortunately for me and my son Mike, after the 2nd World War ended, they divorced and married each other. Over the course of their more than 65-year marriage, their affection never waned. Our family business was representing some of the finest wineries and distilleries of the world, so their love of travel was a wonderful excuse to regularly visit friends and business associates in Europe and the United States. The two beautiful homes they built together in Dallas were always filled with memories, friends, and family, and these homes still stand today as exceptional examples of both 1950s and 1970s classic architectural styles. Their friendships in Dallas and around the world included people from all walks of life One important ingredient to their long and happy relationship is they also gave each other their own space. For instance, my Dad never entered a bar he didn’t like, while Mother never entered a museum she didn’t love.

Their fine taste and love of life together led them to live in St. Vincent de Cosse, France in the Dordogne Valley where they remodeled an 18th-century French farmhouse and spent 11 years enjoying the best of Southern France while entertaining countless friends and relatives from home. However, they remained Dallasites for their entire lives and even though Dad passed away in 2004, my Mother, at 99 years of age, still loves and thinks of him daily as she did when she was a high school teenager in love.

From the entire staff at Inn on the Alameda, Mike, and myself, we hope you will be our Valentine!


Joe Schepps










Sources: Spragg, Joann Montgomery County Historical Society Report on Susan Arnold Elston Wallace