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, Pope Gelasius established the Feast of  Saint Valentine on February 14th, but this was 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.”

In the early 17th Century, Valentine’s Day is also referenced in Shakespeare’s Hamlet; but it was not until 18th and 19th century England and America that the tradition emerged of sending beautifully decorated and handmade love notes to the object of one’s affection. Soon, candy, chocolate and gifts were added, and that was when what we now know as Valentine’s Day flourished and truly became a “national holiday”. Unfortunately, the commercialization of the Valentine’s Day card has taken  the individuality and creativeness out of these cards, but even still, young and old cherish receiving the request to “Be my Valentine”. At least I still do.

In an attempt to honor the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we have picked six very special 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 9 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 and hence saved the La Fonda Hotel in 1968 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 important 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 8 years ago on 2/5/06, went to Hunter College.  Dad, who died 2/6/07, went to City College.  These schools were part of the City Colleges system in New York.  They got married while Dad was on leave from the service.  It was a quickly planned wedding.  They married in 7/29/45 and it lasted 61 years ending in 2006.  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!!

I, we, believe that together with “forgive, forget, and humor,” and these three elements of “fun, adventure, and a great support system” can 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. Additionally, Bill’s experience and business acumen assured the survival of both the College of Santa Fe (now known as Santa Fe University of Art & Design), and St. Vincent’s Hospital. These activities, as well as their support of countless other civic and philanthropic 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 it 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 thing that’s very important is to stop expecting….  “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 which brought many significant life events (death, injury, etc.), they decided to co-habitate.

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, and 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, a renowned author and world traveler, the 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 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 dangerous New Mexico territory in 1878.  Lew had been hired by the Eastern newspapers to send back brief sketches of life in the territory.  Finding himself busy with both the administration of the territory and his own writing of Ben Hur, he 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 and Susan travelled together then throughout the Middle East, after his ambassadorship to the Ottoman Empire.  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 they made their own. My Dad recalls visiting Bishop’s Lodge in the 1920’s 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 1930’s and fell in love immediately. But family influences drove them to marry others. However, fortunately for me and my son Mike, after the 2nd World War ended, they divorced and married each other for a lasting marriage of over 65 years. 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 early 1950’s and 1970’s classic architectural style. Their social relationships 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 92 years of age, still loves and thinks of him daily him as she did when she was a high school teenager in love.

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


Joe Schepps










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