“A favorite daughter of the Agua Fria community.” That phrase is essential to the tribute paid by friends and neighbors to Melinda Romero Pike. As much or more than anything else, this small and distinct township on Santa Fe’s western edge has shaped the person she is—and few people have ever given back more.
An amateur historian, she has diligently learned the story of Agua Fria, and spoken and written about it many times. She has fought to preserve the unique identity of Agua Fria, where she has lived all her life. She has traced her own family’s history back through six generations, and has kept alive the legacy of her great-uncle Celso—“Tio Celso”—a simple and devout man who carved wooden images of saints and is now renowned as one of New Mexico’s greatest artists. She was the first woman to serve on the parish council of the village’s San Isidro Church, and was instrumental in raising funds to build for it a new multi-purpose center, and in acquiring the land on which it was constructed.
Yet her contributions extend far beyond her home village. She has worked on behalf of the St. Anne and Cristo Rey churches in Santa Fe. She worked more than a quarter-century with Catholic Social Services. She was the first woman to serve on Santa Fe’s city water board. In 1994 she became a member of the Santa Fe River Task Force, and has fought ever since for a personal dream of hers: seeing the river flow again. After winning a fight with breast cancer 30 years ago, she became in 1974 a founder of the American Cancer Society’s local chapter. She also helped start a Reach to Recovery survivor support program, which she then served nationally, representing the Hispanic community.
After her husband died in 1963 she single-handedly raised two sons, who first attended Agua Fria Elementary School and then moved on into professional careers, one in government service, the other as a doctor and lawyer. At the age of 77, she stays in shape by cheerfully waiting tables at Tortilla Flats restaurant.