Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories


Sam & Ethel Ballen

Sam &
Ethel Ballen


Honored October 2000

Sam & Ethel Ballen

After combat duty in Europe in World War II, Sam Ballen returned to his native New York City and married the love of his life, Ethel, whom he had met in college. For the next six decades, the pair shared their lives in a most marvelous adventure together.

Initially Sam and Ethel remained in New York, where Sam’s Russian/Polish immigrant parents had a grocery store in Harlem. With his college degree, however, Sam set his sights on Wall Street, and succeeded as a stock analyst. Ethel, meanwhile, began mothering what would eventually become a family of six daughters. In time the Ballens moved to Dallas, and grew wealthy in the oil business. A significant milestone came when Sam became the first Jewish member of the exclusive Dallas Petroleum Club.

In Texas they learned to love the Indian art and culture of the Southwest. They frequently visited Santa Fe, which they also came to love. After a unanimous family vote in 1967, the Ballens made Santa Fe their permanent home. They came with no set plans for their new life in New Mexico, but upon learning in 1968 that La Fonda on the Plaza, the landmark “Inn at the End of the Santa Fe Trail,” was for sale, they bought it.