Since the rest of you couldn’t be there, I thought I’d share with you some reflections on Peg Van Valen Russell’s memorial that took place in Alamosa on Friday. It was in a grand hall on Adams State College campus. The hall, adorned with flowers, was packed. Hundreds of members of the San Luis Valley and Northern New Mexico community were there, all of whom felt a singular, tragic loss with Peg’s passing: friends, family, lawyers, judges, law enforcement officers, social workers, water specialists, railroad engineers, teachers, children crammed the hot auditorium — indeed, it seemed that every single facet of Alamosa society was represented, and every single one of these people were honored to call Peg a friend. Representing her Philmont tribe were myself, Sam Vivian (Colorado Springs), and her very close and dear friends Steve Rick and Sam Minor from Cimarron.
After the eulogy, friends took turns speaking, sharing remembrances. All of these were directed especially to her beautiful, handsome son, Quinn, who was sitting front and center. He is a remarkably well-mannered and smart seven-year old boy who stole the heart of everyone there. When the ceremony began, the gentleman leading the service welcomed us all, and turned to Quinn and asked him, “Quinn, do you know why we are here today?” To which the boy answered clearly, “Because of my Mom.” “That’s right,” the man said, and so began the service.
Apparently Quinn is fascinated with trains and the railroad — quite a few of which pass through Alamosa. Peg and Quinn would frequent the depot and watch the trains, with Quinn becoming a mascot of sorts among the engineers. The engineers would invite Peg and Quinn up into the engine and Quinn would have a marvelous time exploring and climbing around. One of the most wonderful and moving tributes was when a group of half a dozen of these engineers — Quinn’s “Train Dads” — dressed in clean overalls, escorted by Quinn, walked up to the stage and shared a special tribute. It turns out that a couple of weeks ago the head engineer was about to make a long train ride up over La Veta Pass, and invited Quinn and Peg to join him. It was a 9-hour ride, and they all had a ball. In fact, the photo of Quinn sleeping in Peg’s lap is from that journey — “the last day,” as Quinn so heart-breakingly put it.
One thing I found truly reassuring was the realization and recognition that Quinn has an enormous family there in Alamosa. Peg’s parents live there, as do the Russell clan. And though she had divorced from Scott (who played a couple of musical tributes to her), they remained good friends and his family is still clearly very close and dear to Peg and Quinn.
A fund has been set up to help support Quinn, who was adopted at birth by Peg; she was raising him as a single mom.
Donations can be made to the:
Richard Q. Russell Memorial Account via
Julie Kenison, Deposit Services Representative
San Luis Valley Federal Bank
P.0. Box 780
Alamosa, Colorado 81101
Additionally, friends of Peg are putting together a notebook of remembrances of her for Quinn. If any of you would like to share with Quinn photographs, memories and anecdotes of his mother please send them to:
District Court Chief Judge
O. John Kuenhold
12th Judicial District Chief Judge
702 4th Street
Alamosa CO 81101