About Santa Fe Living Treasures

Mary Lou Cook, Founder of Santa Fe Living Treasures

Mary Lou Cook, Founder of
Santa Fe Living Treasures

our mission:

The Santa Fe Living Treasures, an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) organization, publicly honors elders who have generously served our community with kind hearts and good deeds. Their oral histories and photographs are recorded, archived, and made available to the public at the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library, Santa Fe, NM.

who is a living treasure?

Our Treasures are 70 years or older, live in the Santa Fe area, and have generously served and inspired others in our community. Treasures include teachers, nurses, artists, writers, farmers, good neighbors, merchants, weavers, photographers, builders, architects, potters, dancers, physicians, historians, naturalists, environmentalists, healers, pueblo governors, journalists, musicians, volunteers, and people from many other walks of life. We express our appreciation for them at a simple public ceremony. The honorees are presented with awards, and friends and family share their remembrances. Our honorees are selected from nominations from the community. Anyone may nominate a Santa Fe Living Treasure by sending letters of recommendation to the Living Treasures Committee.
Nominate a Living Treasure

our founder, mary lou cook

As founder of the Living Treasures program, Mary Lou Cook has been its steady source of energy and heart. She has received numerous international, national, and community awards as a distinguished leader. She is also known for her work as a calligrapher, teacher, minister, author, and peace worker.

With age comes confidence. I love being this age.
I trust myself and I’m comfortable with who I am.
—Mary Lou Cook

Mary Lou Cook biography

our story

Peace activist and minister Mary Lou Cook, along with friends, founded the Santa Fe Living Treasures program in 1984. Inspired by Gandhi’s advice, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world,” the group wanted to do something that wasn’t being done—express appreciation for the important contributions of our Elders. Modeled after traditions from Japan, it is a simple concept of honoring those Elders in our communities who make a difference. The Treasures honored at our ceremonies represent our best values. In honoring them, the group aims to say a heartfelt “Thank You” and to inspire others to become active in serving our community. In the early years, Living Treasures ceremonies were held in homes, but as its popularity grew, increased public attendance required the use of public spaces such as a library, meeting hall, or local museum. Usually two ceremonies are held each year, and usually three people receive official Living Treasures awards at each ceremony. One hundred seventy-five Treasures have been honored since 1984. In 1997, portraits and excerpts from the interviews of the first 104 Treasures were compiled into a book, Living Treasures: Celebration of the Human Spirit.
Read Hope Magazine article

start a living treasures program in your town

Our program has inspired the founding of similar programs in other cities in New Mexico and around the country. Santa Fe also has a Teen Treasures program, and several churches have established a Treasures program of their own.

the living treasures how-to handbook

by Mary Lou Cook
This free booklet is a complete guide for starting a Living Treasures program.
The How-to Handbook