Martinez, Robert Orlando, ‘Bobby’ fell asleep in his bed at his home in Santa Fe on December 29th, and, just as he promised, left the living world on his terms. Fiercely independent, brutally honest and incredibly selfless, Uncle Bobby’s simple life was greater than the sum of its parts and the embodiment of a life story worth sharing.
Dying of natural causes during the ongoing Covid Pandemic mirrors the turmoil of the times into which Uncle Bobby was born; in the throes of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression on June 29, 1928 in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. Bobby was the son of newspaperman and New Mexico State Representative Manuel P. Martinez, founder of the Santa Rosa News. After his father’s death in 1936, Robert and his mother, Fidelia and his three sisters moved to Santa Fe, site of their ancestral home where so many families of the era struggled to survive the times.
He attended Santa Fe High School and after graduation worked as a stock clerk at Tito’s Grocery Store before joining the U.S Army in June 1950. He was trained as a radio mechanic at Ft. Bliss, Texas and after discharge from service; he worked for the Air Force in Nevada learning electronics as a radar operator before joining the U.S. Postal Service in 1958.
For thirty years he was the postman on Santa Fe's Postal Route 3, covering storied Canyon Road and its web of nearby neighborhoods and barrios with acequias, tienditas, and Santa Fe's founding families in every nook and cranny. With his prodigious memory and astute observations of local life, Bobby was the perfect storyteller of the hidden stories of Santa Fe. His decades of delivering the mail through rain and snow gave him a wealth of knowledge about the Ancient City. For the rest of his life, Bobby regaled family and friends with memories of the famous and infamous residents of historic neighborhoods at a time of transformation for Santa Fe from a little known ‘villa’ to a city of international distinction.
Until the last days, his mind was sharp, recalling the names of each person living at any particular residence along his route, sharing remembrances of politicians and actors, famous historians and painters like Georgia O'Keeffe and the machinations that allegedly swindled the icon of part of her fortune in her final days.
Bobby was childhood friends with Fray Angelico Chavez, and they had many an occasion to ruminate about local history and even the mysterious happenings in the nearby Atomic City of Los Alamos. Once over a beer in the bar at La Fonda Hotel, they had the distinct sensation that despite their hushed tones, a Russian spy lurked in the shadows eavesdropping on their conversation.
The secrets of Santa Fe and vicinity may or may not have been exposed to the foreigner, but only an iconic priest and his childhood friend had real knowledge of the code of Santa Fe life. With their ties to local families, their conversations bore the knowledge of generations’ worth of scurrilous stories hidden behind adobe walls, but capable of being encapsulated in story and local lore.
Bobby's delight in storytelling was great, but he never engaged in idle mitote or gossip. He loathed self-aggrandizement and self-serving publicity, so politicians were irksome to him, and they were vulnerable to Bobby's diatribes. His long forgotten and semi-famous politician father had left the family penniless when he died.
One time, a fellow postman asked Bobby about the poor family who used to live on Arroyo Tenorio, just off Garcia Street. The postman recalled that the family had nothing to eat and that one family member in particular, Celine, did not possess a single winter coat and was forced to cut pieces of cardboard to replace the soles of her shoes. Bobby reluctantly revealed that Celine was his older sister and that his family was beyond impoverished during those war years. All they had was each other.
Bobby never married, instead giving his life in devotion to his family. He cared for his mother until her death in 1994, while at the same time tending to Celine, stricken with Alzheimer’s at a young age. For nearly a decade, he saw to her care and managed her affairs until her death - and beyond the call of duty.
In his golden years, he lived frugally, rarely venturing from his home except when his sisters’ families came to town. True to his moniker as "Uncle," Bobby saw to it that his nephews and nieces attended college and found professional success. In his selflessness, a humble postman was able to help so many family members.
In 2010, he was featured in ‘El Corazon de Santa Fe’, a documentary celebrating Santa Fe’s 400th anniversary. He playing an imaginary figure Don Cayetano, a character lamenting the loss of the region’s Catholic, Spanish and traditional roots.
As such, Bobby is the last of his generation, preceded in death by his father, Manuel P. Martinez, his mother Fidelia, and his sisters, Celine, Marcella and Marie. He is survived by Celine’s children, Vicki Vejar, Roberta Jean Martinez, nephews E. Anthony and David M. Martinez and Marie’s daughter, Diane Marks. He also has several grand nephews and nieces who will learn about the character and kindness of a true local treasure.
The family will celebrate their uncle’s life with a virtual service at 1 PM MST this Wednesday, January 6th at Berardinelli Mortuary that can be viewed worldwide by logging on to the OneRoom: https://www.oneroomstreaming.com/view/ Event ID:BerardinelliFS Pass: BGVPEO
On June 29th, 2021, his extended family and friends will gather for a Catholic mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe with formal burial of his ashes with military honors following at the National Cemetery in Santa Fe. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the nuns at the Carmelite Monastery in Santa Fe, 49 Mt. Carmel Road in Santa Fe, New Mexico, 87505
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Robert Orlando Martinez, please visit our floral store.