A centenarian, known as “granny” or “grandma” to many in Hondo and Roswell, celebrated her 105 birthday last month.
Amanda Montes Torrez reflects on living to be over 100 years old and is a new resident at Mission Arch Care Center. Living to over 100 runs in her family and both of Torrez’s grandmothers lived a century each.
When asked how it feels to be 105, Amanda said, “Well I don’t feel different. I feel the same.”
During the interview, Amanda’s children, Lydia Gomez and Ray Torrez shared stories and jokes with their mother in her room decorated with photos of her 16 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren.
“Right now everybody in the valley loves her,” Lydia said. “She’s everybody’s grandma.”
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Lydia and Ray claim their mothers’ longevity is due to eating well, never consuming alcohol and years of hard work. Lydia said Amanda was picking apples in her husband’s orchard all the way into her late 70s.
The family provided a pamphlet from her 100th birthday with Torrez’s life story for information, compiled by her youngest daughter Betty Villarreal.
Amanda was born to Jesus and Tomacita in Capitan, New Mexico on Nov. 11, 1914, and was delivered by her grandmother Francisca Aldaz, who was a certified midwife. Amanda had about 10 siblings.
Amanda and her children shared that their family has origins from Portugal. Her family raised sheep and Angora goats in Alamo Canyon and would sell the wool in Roswell, transporting it via horses and a wagon.
As a young woman, she enjoyed dancing and playing on the basketball team in the Hondo Valley.
In her lifetime, she has lived through the two World Wars and seen technological advances such as motor vehicles and electricity. At 4 years old, she remembers seeing her great-uncle in his military uniform. In World War II, her younger brother died at the age of 17 overseas.
After graduating high school in 1932, Amanda attended the University of New Mexico to become a certified teacher. She was encouraged by Louise Coe, her high school teacher, and followed in her sister Lucia’s footsteps to be a teacher. Lucia Gonzales, Grace Gomez, Amanda and her cousin Fermin Montes traveled to UNM together.
“The four of us rode to Albuquerque in the back of a pickup truck,” Amanda said as written in her birthday pamphlet. “I remember we drove at 25 miles per hour. It was a long trip. We camped out in Belen under the trees the night before arriving in the big city of Albuquerque. I had to learn many things for the first time. I had to learn to use electric lights and the telephone.”
After two years at college, Amanda returned to the Hondo Valley to teach grade school. Her first class had 50 first- and second-graders and she taught for two years. Teaching English to her Spanish speaking students was her favorite part of being an educator.
Shortly after, she married the love of her life Ignacio Torrez, who passed away in 2005 at age 92. Amanda grew up and attended dances with Ignacio, who had polio and recovered from it later.
The couple had six kids: Lydia, Ray, Joe, Albert (deceased), Lorena and Betty. Amanda took a break from teaching to raise her family. Starting when her youngest went to school, Amanda worked in Hondo Schools from 1966 until 1981 when she retired.
All of her kids danced in the Hondo Fiestas, which she called the “highlight of the school year,” and remembers sewing dresses for her daughters and sewing sequins on vests for her sons.
In 2014, a 100th birthday party was held for Amanda, where about 150 people attended and they ran out of food for them from Martin’s Capitol Cafe, which Lydia and Ray’s uncle owns. On this birthday, she realized she was 100 years older than three of her great-great-grandchildren.
After turning 100, Amanda had a stroke and pneumonia, but now is in great health, Lydia said.
“I didn’t think about my age — I just let the years come,” Amanda laughed.
Special projects reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at email@example.com.