Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Viola Padilla

Viola M. Padilla


Honored November, 2005

Viola M. Padilla

Viola Maes and Amadeo Padilla were married in Mora, N. M., in 1942, then almost immediately were separated for three years while he served overseas in World War II. He returned in 1945, however, and by 1958 their family had grown to include seven children. But Amadeo and Viola were worried that Mora's small and strained public school system could not provide an adequate education to prepare their children to succeed in life. So Viola and the children moved to Santa Fe to attend school here, while Amadeo stayed in Mora to run his barbershop. Then for 10 years the family maintained this arrangement, reuniting on weekends.

Thus in essence Viola became a single mother, of a large family (an eighth child was born later). And she worked very, very hard at it. She stretched every dollar, made every meal, washed, cleaned, ironed, and provided much of the family's food from her garden and henhouse. Although she had not finished high school, she kept close track of every child's homework, and made sure it got done. She made them read to her every evening, and insisted that each learn to play a musical instrument. The home had few toys, but it did have newspapers and an encyclopedia set. She taught everyone to drive the family car, a skill she had not learned until adulthood. In everything her children did, Viola insisted it be done well.

She and Amadeo expected all their children to go to college, and seven of them earned degrees, including advanced ones. The other child, who left college to get married, now owns a successful art gallery. Fields chosen by other siblings include teaching, the law, accounting and aviation, to name some. Now those grown-up men and women are instilling equally firm values in their own children.

A large number of friends and neighbors feel that they too are part of Viola's "family," so wide is her concern and love. A woman of enormous energy and involvement, she has won several cooking contests, as well as more than 30 medals in Senior Olympic events. She has been an election worker, a political activist, a volunteer in various causes. Though her husband died in 2002, Viola remains quite active in her mid-80s. She is revered by her family, whom she taught: "There are reasons to be poor, but dirty and lazy, no."