Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Virginia Soto

Honored June 2012

Virginia Soto

Virginia Soto is the heart, soul, and life of the Pasatiempo Housing Complex and Senior Center. She volunteers as the Center's designated director, greeting all who come through the door for meals or activities, from ceramics and woodworking, to line-dancing and Zumba.

Born in the mining town of Terrero, near Pecos, she was educated in a one-room schoolhouse. Virginia's father worked in the mines. Her family moved to Santa Fe when the mines closed. She graduated from St. Francis School, then attended one year at Harvey School. She began working at age 14 to help support her family. Her first job was at the then-downtown Faith Café. The owner hired her with one condition: "You have to do your homework." She was later a soda jerk at Wilson's Creamery, and a waitress at the Plaza Café. "I've had a million and one jobs," Virginia said. "I don't have a high school or college degree but I have a lot of good experience."

Virginia married (the late) Leonard Heidel in 1950, and the couple raised five children. She also took care of her aging grandparents, and later, her parents, until they passed away.

Along the way, Virginia met Cloe East and Lucille Spain, influential women in the Democratic Party. They invited her to volunteer at the headquarters, teaching her about politics, bookkeeping, and managing money. She has worked in the offices of the county clerk and the county treasurer, at the Motor Vehicle Division, and the former State Corporation Commission. Virginia's many friends include seven past governors.

As an active board member in the city's Division of Senior Services, Virginia served as a consultant when her husband, in the city's engineering department, helped design the Pasatiempo Senior Center. In 2001, she was designated the nonpaid director of the senior center. Open weekdays, the Pasatiempo Center serves nutritious meals and offers classes and social activities. Virginia is proud of the wooden dance floor and the ceramics room where she skillfully makes hand-painted ceramics—and crocheted afghans and clothing—for various causes. Virginia is a resource for seniors needing health services and other aid. The Center has grown in size and complexity under her stewardship.

Virginia Vigil, Santa Fe County Commissioner, expressed, "Virginia is an effective and skillful lobbyist for the needs of senior citizens." A Center participant wrote, "Virginia zealously promotes programs to keep us seniors happy, healthy, and encourages our general well-being and self-worth."



Story by Barbara Harrelson

Photo © 2012 by Genevieve Russell