Santa Fe Living Treasures ‚Äď Elder Stories
Honored May, 2016
Kathy Flynn has lived her most of her life in New Mexico and has given more than a lifetime of service to our city and state, Her unending contributions reach nationwide.
Beginning her leadership work in the late 60’s Kathy managed state government programs in Mental Health and Vocational Rehabilitation, and Services to crippled children. Her skills led her to be a hospital administrator, director of a foundation, and executive director of Open Hands. In addition to working and raising three children, she hosted a radio program, and wrote a newspaper column. It was while working as Deputy Secretary of State under Stephanie Gonzales in the 1990s that Kathy realized a treasure trove of the nation’s New Deal history and artifacts exists right here Santa Fe and New Mexico.
Kathy recognized that the contributions from the many programs Franklin D Roosevelt created from 1933-43 to put people back to work during the Great Depression left a legacy that Americans shouldn’t forget. New Deal buildings were falling into ruin, murals were being painted over, and the nation was on the verge of losing some of its most significant heritage. Her life’s work changed, a mission was born.
Kathy began identifying and documenting New Deal work. Always ready to help, she is known to rarely say no, and likewise people say “how do you say no to Kathy?” It was with a shoestring budget, a wing and a prayer, that Kathy initially brought together a variety of people, getting them to work together productively, never failing to recognize and appreciate thecontributions of others.
What evolved is an amazing accomplishment. Kathy started both the state and national New Deal Preservation Associations. For the past 14 years, Kathy has been the coordinator of the New Mexico Chapter of National New Deal Preservation Association and the Executive Director of the the National New Deal Preservation Association, the private non-profit organization established to promote identification, documentation, preservation, and education of people about the federally funded New Deal projects.
Kathy is a well-respected national expert on the New Deal buildings, projects, and artwork produced at that time. Kathy actively participated with Paul Barnes, a documentary producer and editorwho worked with Ken Burns on his documentary “The Roosevelt's; An Intimate History.” Her huge collection of visual images and printed documents are the core of the University of New Mexico archives. She is the published author of three books on the New Deal. Kathy interviewed elderly individuals who worked on the New Deal projects. She has raised awareness through special education events, conferences, meetings and advocacy. She gives guided tours to visitors. Recently Kathy led the New Mexico New Deal group in a project to raise money by getting people to decorate nearly 100 shovels to be auctioned at a gala event. She is indefatigable!
Kathy’s honors include “One of Ten Santa Feans Who Make A Difference”. The National New Deal Preservation Association recently voted to give an annual award in Kathy Flynn’s name to a New Deal preservation activist.
We received nomination letters from distinguished people nationwide. Excerpts from these admirers help highlight Kathy’s accomplishments and her character that made her so successful.
“Kathy is one of the most amazing people I have ever met. This includes Olympic athletes, leading academics in the nation, Nobel Prize winners and a wide variety of successful people. She has enormous passion for preserving the artwork and architecture of all kinds, specifically and ideals of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930’s. She has rescued numerous artworks, found in dumpsters; backyard sales; buried in warehouse, and now they hang on the walls of the New Mexico State House among others.”
“It is no exaggeration to say that her status goes far beyond the borders of New Mexico. She is a National Treasure.”
“Her accomplishments are just an introduction to Kathy Flynn. What truly makes her a treasure is her personality, and the way she develops friendships with everybody she meets. Kathy is a passionate dynamo.”
“Her good spirits, enthusiasm, and positive outlook are boundless”
“She practices the working principle that a meaningful and active life does not end when you are older. Her energy and enthusiasm and life commitment to important and socially positive endeavors has been an inspiration and model to me and so many others.”
“Kathy is an inspiration to us all. She exemplifies the idea that you are as old as you feel, think and behave, all tempered by the wisdom of experience.”
Story by Nancy Dahl
Photo © 2016 by Genevieve Russell