Anna Mae (Lovato) Christophe was born December 10, 1922 and departed this life on June 11, 2009. She married Emile Christophe September 6, 1952 and lived in the Pass Creek area, Walsenburg, CO and in California.
Anna Mae is preceded in death by her parents; Regino and Marina Lovato; her brothers; Emanuel, Robert and Gregory; and her sisters; Antonia, Emelia, Frances, Marina (Susan); and her daughter Annette.
She is survived by her husband Emile Christophe, her brother Eugene; her daughter Jan; her son Maurice; and her grandsons Phillip and Andrew Cisneros.
Anna Mae went to the Rahn School; graduated from Gardner High School in 1941 and went to Colorado State in Greeley to earn degrees in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.
She loved children and was a surrogate grandma to kids everywhere she lived. After returning to Walsenburg, she became an active member of the American Red Cross, the FCE River Roundup, and and was a generous volunteer to any and all in need of help. Her generosity continues on even after her death. True to her scientific roots and giving nature, she donated her body to science for organ donation, and medical student studies. For those who knew her, this is a typical act of her selflessness, continuing to help others even after death.
Services for Anna Mae will be held at 2:00 pm Friday June 19, at the Church of Christ, on 400 North Walsen Avenue (corner of Elm and Walsen) in Walsenburg. In lieu of flowers, she asked that trees be planted that will grow in her memory.
The following is a Voices of the Past interview conducted by Claire A. Qubain:
A pioneer in the world of science
Before Anna Mae Lovato began school, she watched her sisters reading, and desperately wanted to do the same. She pestered and pestered her parents to send her to school. Finally, she was able to enroll early. The five-year-old thought she would come home reading after her first day. It was a huge disappointment when she came home and still didn’t know how to read. While telling about her frustrating experience, she said, “I still remember sitting in school day after day, reciting all the sounds of each letter in the whole alphabet, and feeling so bored. All I wanted to do was read a book like my older sisters!” She was determined. During math, Anna Mae got done with her lessons early and because she was in a one-room schoolhouse, she learned the older children’s lessons. She often asked the teacher for more and harder work. Mrs. Inman, her first grade teacher, sent Anna Mae outdoors to do math problems with stones and leaves. She said, “I think she put me out there because I was pestering her while she was teaching older students.”
One of the students at the Rahn School was a dog. Bingo belonged to Anna Mae’s family. Every day it followed her. The teacher didn’t want her to walk all the way home to return the dog, so the mutt stayed at school all day. During recess, the dog played with the children. One day, Anna Mae’s friend, Lily Kindt, teased her by saying, “Your dog is stupid! He doesn’t know what ‘sic ‘em’ means!”
“Oh yes he does,” said Anna Mae. She pointed at Lily and said, “Sic ‘em!” Anna Mae laughed and said, “That dog jumped on the girl and bit her hard on the arm.” Unfortunately, when Anna Mae told Bingo to attack her friend, the teacher was just coming outside. In a few moments, little Anna Mae was laid over Mrs. Inman’s knee getting a good wallop. Even though Bingo bit Lily, he was still able to come back to school. When the youngest Lovato child, Gregory, graduated from Rahn School, the students threw a graduation ceremony and party for Bingo.
At home, during the summer, when Anna Mae wasn’t playing with her sextuplet paper dolls, she was with her animals. She like dressing up the paper cutouts so much that she wanted to try the game on something live. The victims were her chickens. Anna Mae and her sisters dressed them up in doll clothes. Then they sat them in the back seat of the 1930’s Dodge pretending to put them down for a nap. The car had canvas sides that snapped up instead of windows. The days were hot, and the chickens got sickly. Marina, Anna Mae’s mother, couldn’t figure what was killing the chickens. One afternoon, she discovered the dressed up ‘dollies’ in the backseat of the car. That was the end of playing with their chicken children.
One winter, Anna Mae and her sister Frances, lived with their sister Emelia. She was a schoolteacher in a logging camp, living on the top of old La Veta Pass. She taught the loggers’ children. On one weekend, Emelia didn’t want her little sisters pestering her, so she gave them a quarter to go to the logging town to buy something. Anna Mae and Frances traveled to the small town and stopped at the general store. The young sisters bought a bag of fig bars. Both of the children tried the cookie, which they had never had before. Neither of them like the middle filling, so they ate off the cake-like outside and threw the filling behind them. Soon a couple of goats were following the girls eating the discarded figs. Ten minutes later, Anna Mae and Frances had all the goats in town following them. By the time they got back to their sister’s house, both parts of all the fig bars were gone and the goats left to find other treats.
Later, Anna Mae went off to the larger Gardner High School. There were a total of three teachers. The school’s mascot was a bulldog back then. The high school boys and girls were on a basketball team. They practiced outside. Most of the tournaments were in Rye on Fridays. After the games, they stopped at a café in Rye. Everyone ordered juicy hamburgers except Anna Mae. She was the only Catholic on the team. The one item on the menu that she could order was a tuna fish sandwich. “It wouldn’t have been so bad,” she complained, “but that was the worst smelling, oiliest tuna ever!”
Anna Mae’s father was a very intelligent man. He taught his children the names of the constellations, flowers and trees in English and Latin. Believe it or not, he was the only man around the whole area of Gardner that even knew about Santa Claus! “I don’t know how he found out about him, maybe it was the miners. He was working at Ideal Mine at the time,” Anna Mae explained. “Well, anyway, one time the children took the fact that only they knew about Santa to their advantage.” Her brothers told their neighbors about Santa Claus. They told the youngest child that “if you hang a stocking by the fire on Christmas Eve, you would get presents. If you are bad though,” they told the child, “you will get sticks and coal.” You can imagine what the older children did. With the help of the youngest child’s brother, coal and sticks were put into the kid’s sock that was hung by the stove.
Each Christmas Eve, Regino Lovato took his family to Gardner’s Midnight Mass. While the family was at church, Regino either sneaked out or had a friend take a wagon up the ridge by their house. On the way home, from Mass, Regino pointed out Santa’s sleigh tracks. Inside the house were little toys and candies for the children. When they kneeled in a circle to pray, Anna Mae’s grandma threw candy up in the air, and it rained down over the praying children.
When Anna Mae became the Valedictorian from Gardner High School, she also won a scholarship to college. Anna Mae majored in chemistry at Colorado State in Greeley. She wasn’t able to graduate until later because of the war. She thought she was going to become a chemistry teacher, but instead she became a chemist. That’s because, during the war, there was a shortage of men. She worked for Shell Development in California. Later she owned a bakery. Anna Mae and Emile
Christophe were married on September 6, 1952. A couple of years ago, they came back to Southern Colorado where Anna Mae first began her life. They now enjoy spending time with their children and grandchildren in Walsenburg. Anna Mae likes being back home to share stories from her childhood.
When I sat down at Anna Mae (Lovato) Christophe’s kitchen table for an interview, I was prepared to be told stories that had little in common with my life, since she was born in the 1920’s. I was soon to be proven wrong. When Anna Mae told me about the location of her childhood home, I realized that it was just over the hill from my house. Sure, times have changed. None of the family’s food was store-bought except flour and sugar, and her family was one of the few to own a car in Gardner. Her brother connected batteries and cables to generate some of the first electricity around. But, when I look out my windows, I can see two of the four locations of the Rahn schoolhouses, which Anna Mae attended. She passed by my house everyday when she went to school. Her father, Regino, kept apple orchards. Perhaps the apple trees in my field were his transplants. My father also loves trees and has planted dozens, including apple. Both of our fathers were farriers. Regino had a blacksmith shop where the Gardner County Shop is now. Anna Mae spent a lot of playtime with her sisters and animals, since the neighbors didn’t live close. I am like that too. She was one of the short players on the Gardner basketball team. And, now I am. Maybe we aren’t so different after all.
Claire A. Qubain