Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

Back to Treasures Index

Elspeth Bobbs

Elspeth Bobbs

Honored October, 2008

Elspeth G. Bobbs

Elspeth Bobbs was born in Devonshire County, England, in 1920 to an American father and a British mother. From her father she inherited a degenerative disease, otosclerosis, which left her totally deaf by the time she reached her 20s. When World War II broke out, living in England was particularly difficult for the deaf, for they could not hear air-raid warnings. So Elspeth came to America.

She read all the books by Taos-based writer Mabel Dodge Luhan and developed a great desire to see New Mexico. She moved to Santa Fe, and worked at an abstract company. In 1945, shortly after the war’s end, she met her future husband, Howard Bobbs, a sixth-generation artist in his family. Soon they had three daughters, and in 1955 opened a bookstore called The Book Specialist.

In 1967 the Bobbses bought on Canyon Road four acres of land with a few run-down buildings and not much else. Even so, they named their home La Querencia--“The Beloved Place”--and step by step worked to make it a beautiful estate. Yet its greatest beauty came only after the sadness of Howard’s death in 1984. Feeling an artistic void in her life after his passing, Elspeth started a garden.


Beginning with herbs, then expanding into flowers, then trees and shrubs, then vegetables, Elspeth created an ever-more-magnificent domain. After a while it held 20 separate garden plots, and had become a major attraction in the world of gardening.

With an abundance of nutritious vegetables and wonderful flowers, Elspeth generously shared the bounty with the Kitchen Angels. But by no means was that her only cause. A philanthropist all through the years, she has been a major supporter of the Presbyterian Ear Institute, Santa Fe Community Foundation, Planned Parenthood, Women’s Health Services, and numerous other groups. In 1999 she was declared New Mexico’s Philanthropist of the Year.

A cochlear implant in 1988 gave Elspeth a small degree of hearing, enabling her to enjoy her family, friends and astonishingly full life more than ever. But she has always lived it to the hilt--as shown by a bumper sticker seen all over town: “I’m a Friend of Mrs. Bobbs.”

Story by Richard McCord

Photo © 2008 Steve Northup