KNOW YOUR NEIGHBOR: Stephen Lieurance

Ranch hand, carpenter, teacher, beekeeper

By Kathy Córdova
For The Taos News
Posted 11/13/19

Self-made man Stephen Lieurance learned much in his lifetime due to his own efforts and many interests. His work history began at age 13 and continued in an active, diverse path until his retirement in recent years.

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KNOW YOUR NEIGHBOR: Stephen Lieurance

Ranch hand, carpenter, teacher, beekeeper

Posted

Self-made man Stephen Lieurance learned much in his lifetime due to his own efforts and many interests. His work history began at age 13 and continued in an active, diverse path until his retirement in recent years.

Early ranch years

Lieurance's late parents Donovan Herbert and Mildred Naomi Lieurance raised five children: Neils; the late Michael Donovan; the late Karen Marie; Naomi Ruth; and Stephen.

At ages 13 and 14, Lieurance worked alongside his brother at the family custom hay service business in Otis, Colorado. They mowed, baled, cut, stockpiled and delivered hay to customers.

When Lieurance's father passed away in 1955, he moved to Littleton, Colorado, with his mother and sister. At age 14, young Stephen (then a freshman) dropped out of high school and continued farm work at South Park, Colorado, at the foot of Kenosha Pass in Jefferson County.

"I worked at the A. [Albert] Wahl Ranch, consisting of 1,000 acres and 800 head of cattle. Albert partnered with his bother Fred, so together they owned two ranches. There were 600 acres of grass hay," Lieurance said.

"We followed a schedule: irrigating often, moving the cattle with a team of horses in August and working on hay in August and September, hopefully before the first snowfall," said Lieurance, smiling as he recalled the memory. Ranch hands stacked the loose hay for the cattle's winter food. Spring calving occurred in March, and the cattle remained loose in the meadows during April, May and June.

June to September included "high country on horseback," taking salt to the livestock salt licks, moving about on forest lands and dealing with the hay once more. September activity included binging cows down from the mountains, placing them in the meadows and rounding up cattle for sale.

Military service

"I later worked at two other ranches with my older brother, doing the same work. When I turned 17, I started thinking that I needed education because I was involved in nothing but dead-end jobs. I worked with some roofers, brothers who were ex-Marines, and they encouraged me to join," said Lieurance. He shipped out in September 1958 to San Diego and took his basic training and all assignments at Camp Pendleton until 1961. His Military Occupation Specialty was heavy equipment operator. Lieurance earned a General Equivalent Diploma during his military years.

After military service, Lieurance moved to Englewood, Colorado, to stay with his mother. He began work with Martin Marietta on the Titan Missile, slated to ship to Cape Canaveral, Florida. His job as an expediter included tracking parts between Waterton, Colorado, and the production factory in Littleton, Colorado. He checked new parts and made certain to remove old engineering products.

Carmen

Lieurance met Carmen Martinez of Taos through mutual friends at a baby shower. At the time, Martinez worked as a nurse at St. Luke's Hospital in Denver. The couple dated in 1963 and married in Denver in January 1964.

Martin Marietta changed their business locations and Lieurance was laid off. The couple moved to Taos and stayed with Martinez's parents, Rose and Ernest Martinez. Lieurance worked on odd jobs and then partnered with his father-in-law to lease a gas station from R.S. West. The couple's first child, Donovan Michael Lieurance, was born at Holy Cross Hospital.

In search of higher education

Stephen Lieurance felt that he needed higher education and enrolled in Arapahoe Junior College in Littleton, Colorado. He graduated from the institution with an associate of arts degree in general studies. Then Lieurance transferred to Metro College in downtown Denver. He originally planned to major in forestry and studied in many science courses to prepare for the process. He completed his bachelor's degree in elementary education while also working at part-time jobs. Joy entered the family again with the birth of Francelia Sophia Lieurance.

Teaching career and return to Taos

Stephen Lieurance taught fifth- and sixth-grade math and science in Leadville, Colorado, for two years.

The Lieurance family returned to New Mexico, first to Questa and then to Peñasco. He converted a store building into a carpentry shop where he made furniture and worked at sites on remodeling projects. The family moved to their current home in Talpa, and Lieurance taught math and science at the Enos Garcia School for seven years under the leadership of Mario Barela and Celestino Romero.

Odds and ends in work

Mixing his talents with a bit of adventure, Lieurance worked as a carpenter at a salmon cannery in Alaska. There, he built a new mess hall, tables and a huge table for the bakery. "The business enterprise was located 15 miles 'upriver' from the Bering Sea," said Lieurance.

Lieurance also worked at the Taos Pueblo Casino as a maintenance manager. He enjoyed meeting new and familiar customers.

For a change of pace, the teacher-carpenter invested in commercial beekeeping. He purchased 100 colonies and spent time cultivating his products. Lieurance developed Red Chile Honey, participating in shows and shipping to 85 different locations worldwide. Chef Mark Miller at Santa Fe's Coyote Café featured the honey in the restaurant's gift shop and in recipes for diners at the venue. At one point, the beekeeper pondered whether to expand or close the business. It did not take long for the decision to occur: bears invaded the hives, thus making closing the business much easier.

A good life

Lieurance's son Donovan has retired and lives in Albuquerque with his wife, Anita.

Daughter Francelia lives in Salida, Colorado, with her husband, Steve Stewart, and son Ian. She works for Bechtel Engineering and Construction Company and will be eligible to retire in five years.

Lieurance works his 2.5 acres in Talpa, growing 30 apple trees and using his press to make many gallons of apple cider. Carmen also cans and makes pies with the apples. The family garden includes cucumbers, spinach and tomatoes.

Along with Carmen, Stephen likes to dance when his knees allow. "Carmen and I danced up a storm, including jitterbugging to the oldies, at her class reunion," related Lieurance, delighted at the memory. The self-avowed "meat and potatoes guy" likes to cook. He makes pot roast with carrots and potatoes.

"I love Spanish food - carne adovada, red and/or green chile, enchiladas, fajitas and sopaipillas - but most of all, Carmen's tortillas. All in all, it's been a good life, full of diversity and creativity. I wouldn't trade it for the world," said Lieurance.

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