"What a sweetheart." "You'll love her to pieces." "She is one of Taos' elders." "She made a difference in many people's lives."
Ask anyone who has crossed paths with Tina V. Martinez — and that's a lot of people — and you'll likely hear such descriptions about this year's Las Fiestas de Taos parade grand marshal.
Martinez's story begins with her birth on Halloween 1925 in Santa Fe. Summer months were spent visiting her grandfather, Juan N. Vigil of Talpa, and her aunt and uncle, Eloisa and Gilbert Vigil. It was during one of those visits that she met her future husband, the late Polito E. Martinez of Taos (teacher and Ranchos Elementary principal). They wed, settled in Talpa and raised five children: Polito Jr., Patsy, Donald, the late Teddy and Tina Jo. Eleven grandchildren and a dozen great-grandchildren now fill the branches of her family tree.
Besides raising her children, she took a genuine affinity for people beyond the Martinez homestead. She served as Taos County Chamber of Commerce secretary for two years. In that capacity, she met many "interesting people."
"Several of them would return to the area and look her up so they could visit and learn more about the beautiful Taos area," daughter Patsy relayed.
Following the retirement of her supervisor, she opted for a change of scenery and went to work as a sales clerk at Sewell's Indian Arts on Taos Plaza and the Kit Carson Road location.
In 1963, Martinez's career took a big turn. District Judge Fred Federici appointed Martinez clerk of the 8th Judicial District Court. She went on to work for Judge Federici and two others, Judge McIntosh and Judge Wright. Among her duties were the supervision of court employees, and assisting attorneys with records and scheduling. The position allowed her to continue to help many Taoseños — something she has always felt drawn to.
"I love people," she simply stated.
Martinez worked for the courts for 18 years, retiring in 1981.
Not one to rest on her laurels, she took her love for being involved with the community to the Taos Municipal School Board, serving as a member for 5 years. Listening to the parents and students was always paramount to her.
Not stopping there, Martinez is a life member of the VFW Ladies' Auxiliary; she has served as treasurer and board member of the Talpa Mutual Domestic Water Association for several years; and she and Polito were mayordormos for Nuestra Señora de San Juan de Los Lagos Catholic Church in Talpa and also for San Francisco de Asís Catholic Church in Ranchos de Taos.
After the passing of Polito, she couldn't just sit around the house, no matter how beautiful and calming the views of Talpa farmland are out of her home's windows.
While serving 14 years as a Peoples Bank hostess, Martinez made and handed out cookies to customers three days a week. On Fridays, she manned the popcorn machine. It was there she became known as "Grandma Tina."
"I still love helping and interacting with people," she said. "I miss people."
Martinez will get her opportunity to be around hundreds of folks at this year's Fiestas. Albeit, she'll be riding in a classic car instead of in the thick of the crowd. But that's ok.
"From afar, I'll get to see many of my good friends," she said with a grin.
Martinez is no stranger to Las Fiestas de Taos. The family's involvement began with Polito, who was a member of Kiwanis. By his side, the family helped organize the parade — "We kept it running smoothly." The Martinez children were taken to Las Fiestas every July.
"We attended some of the dances," Martinez recalled of past Fiestas. "My husband and I would walk around the park to visit with out-of-state friends who came back for the Fiestas."
The traditions of Las Fiestas de Taos, she added, are "important to keep going."
The invitation to be Las Fiestas de Taos parade's grand marshal surprised Martinez.
"At my age (92), I wondered if I should accept it or not," she chuckled. The thought of seeing old friends and making new ones, however, made the decision for her quite easy in the end.