By Destiny Mitchell
Fiesta Board President
Sherry Lane Fletcher has been a resident of Truth or Consequences for the past 65 years. She attended elementary and high school here, but graduated in Kansas, where her grandparents lived. She returned to New Mexico and received a bachelor’s degree from New Mexico State University in 1968, majoring in elementary education with a minor in history. Sherry has spent more than 41 years in the public education system, holding positions from teacher to assistant superintendent. Sherry left Truth or Consequences between 1965 and 1981, where she said she was “gone long enough to know that she wanted to come home.”
Sherry is an accomplished writer. Spending her later years pursuing her interest in history, she has compiled and collected an extensive amount of data on Sierra County and the surrounding areas. She claims to have a “passion for getting the true story documented through the eyes of first source accounts.” She admits that she has had to sift through lots of data and information, but sorting through oral history has been very interesting for her, even if it is hard to back up. Her collective efforts have helped her to author, co-write, and publish four different books dealing with the history of Sierra County, New Mexico. Her latest collection “Images of America: Truth or Consequences,” co-authored by Cindy Carpenter, was published in November 2010.
Several organizations have had the honor of Sherry’s researching capabilities. An active member of MainStreet Truth or Consequences, Sherry has brought her historical expertise to the table, helping the organization document the histories of many of the buildings in downtown Truth or Consequences as well as influencing their upcoming Heritage Days.
“MainStreet is important because it supports other research and other organizations,” says Sherry.
Sherry has helped and served on other boards and organizations, such as the TV for TorC in the past and the Historical Bathhouse District Committee, where she helped with the successful completion of the historical bathhouse districts on the national and state level.
Her main focus this year has been the New Mexico Centennial Committee, which has been organized to celebrate our state’s birthday. Sherry was instrumental in the kickoff to the year of the “Walk Across the Dam,” raising awareness for our 100 years of statehood celebrations taking place across the state throughout the year. The purpose of the centennial committee was to help other organizations plan and orchestrate their own Centennial celebrations, providing guidance, information, and organizational advice. Sherry also plans to lend her expertise via this committee to help with the Kingston Centennial and the Arrey Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Though the committee doesn’t have the manpower or resources to put on entire events, they can offer assistance to organizations that plan to celebrate our 100 years of statehood throughout the year.
Sherry considers herself to be a random thinker, but does not do things randomly. She feels that we need some closure on the history of the area. She feels that we need to write a history that accurately depicts what happens. She understands that we have “lots of jewels of information, that are isolated, and we need to put them together to make a necklace.”
Ultimately Sherry would like to complete the gathering of her information, and create a new manuscript. She says that there is a new manuscript in the process of completion, but they are waiting for the economy to shift for a more favorable publication date.
One of her main goals is to make all of her research and information available to anyone in southern New Mexico, or even across the world. She hopes that her papers and data collections will be digitally archived at her alma mater, New Mexico State University, in the Rio Grande Library.
I asked Sherry what her favorite memory of Fiesta was. She said, “The first one.” She was three years old, wearing a cowboy hat and dress, which she called her “Fiesta outfit.” She said she remembers all the excitement surrounding the celebration, although her parents were not in favor of the name change. Her grandparents had managed a bathhouse and were afraid to lose the connection to the hot springs district.
Sherry has been helping the Fiesta board this year, helping to organize a float full of centenarians – persons who have lived (close to) 100 years in this area. Sherry told a wonderful story about Annette Smith, who moved here in 1917, and well into her 90s, kept telling the doctors that she couldn’t die, because she was going to be on a float in the parade to celebrate her life. However, Annette passed away in January 2012, and will not be able to ride on the float.
Sherry will be working with the Fiesta board to ensure the biographies of the centenarians will be accessible to the public throughout the Fiesta event. Sherry feels that these members of our community are what make us who we are, and they are filled with rich oral histories that really bring Sierra County to life.
Editor’s Note: I am so glad the 2012 Fiesta Board selected Sherry Lane Fletcher as this year’s grand marshal. Sherry’s tireless work in documenting the history of our city, county and state makes her a natural choice for this year’s Fiesta – 100 Years of Southwestern Hospitality. Sherry may prefer to stay behind the scenes, stating that she had really hoped to honor Annette Smith (Sierra County’s oldest female resident, who passed away in January), and Scotty Scott, (Sierra County’s oldest male resident who would agree to be interviewed and who passed away – other than Mr. Ira Looney, who graciously declined to be interviewed for the biographies to be presented during Fiesta. Sherry quoted famed New Mexico artist Georgia O’Keefe, telling The Herald, “It’s not important what year we were born or what our address is, it’s what we’ve done with our lives.” Congratulations, Sherry, on your many amazing accomplishments, and on being selected this year’s Fiesta Grand Marshal.