Obituary: Dorotea (Dottie) Montoya – Oct. 29, 1933 – May 24, 2020


Dorotea (Dottie) Montoya, a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend, passed over on May 24, 2020 in her home.

Her courage to face the futility of continuing in a body that she had exhausted, and her strength to overcome her greatest fear of not breathing, allowed her to meet the angels on her terms and her time. Surrounded by her family, she discarded all support and set about taking her last breath. After eleven hours, as the sun rose, her spirit left her body.

Her passing, like her life, was a celebration of deep wisdom and healing – of herself, those around her, her family, and her community. She was able to see the whole person and to nurture and strengthen the very best in them, free of judgment, and with deep compassion. She intuitively knew of human frailty and was able to help others grow from what seemed like insurmountable problems. Her compassion never wavered.

Dorotea was a doer, needing to be helpful, useful, and productive until the very end. She loved her life and endured ten years of metastatic breast cancer to have more time with her family and friends, eventually succumbing to an infection that depleted the last of her physical strength. But nothing depleted her great spirit.

Dorotea was born to Maximilliano and Demetria Roybal on October 29, 1933 on a sheep skin blanket in the corner of their kitchen, on what is now Picuris Pueblo. She was the fourth of twelve children and quickly became a second mother to the seven beneath her.

She attended a small school in Rio Lucio and she would often tell of her mother putting a warm potato in her pocket in winter as a hand warmer, and her lunch, for her walk to school. She grew up a farmer and never lost her ability and desire to work the land, planting a three sisters garden – calabazas, frijoles and maize – the month before she passed.

In her teenage years she worked at the old hospital in Dixon, New Mexico as a nurse’s aide, which led her to attend school in Albuquerque and Colorado Springs to obtain her nurses license. It was while working in a hospital in Colorado Springs that she met José Amado Montoya, who would become her husband. He had been shot in the knee in the Korean War and ended up her patient. He fell in love with her at first sight, but had to work hard to convince her to marry him.

The day following their marriage on October 8, 1952, José was sent by the U.S. Army to Orleans, France. Nine months later, terrified of the vast ocean, she sailed across the Atlantic to meet him. In France they set about creating a family, eventually having six children, four boys and two girls, all of whom tell stories that reflect her ability to love them each in ways unique to them. She would often say she was pregnant for fifty-four months as all of their children are approximately one year apart.

Not long after the birth of their first child, Dorotea and José moved to Denver, Colorado, where Dorotea worked the night shift in hospitals to help support her family. Her experience as a hospital nurse led her to work for several doctors before eventually being hired as part of a team of professionals in a pilot program called the “Family Learning Center” in the mid 1970’s. It was a new model of health care based on the understanding that the family must be helped, not just the individuals. Dorotea served as the nurse on the team. During this time she attended Denver University and obtained her Nurse Practitioners License, being one of the first in the country to do so. When she moved to NM, she was only one of three nurse practitioners in the entire state.

Several years after her mother passed in 1972, she and José moved to New Mexico to assist her father for the last years of his life. They settled in the small community of Velarde, where she lived until her passing.

In the early 1980s she was hired as the school nurse at Española High School. She arrived to find seventy-five girls pregnant and immediately realized that she needed to do more than act as a traditional school nurse if she was to help them. She ignored critics and created a school-based clinic where she brought in professionals to help the students and their families. Through what would become her school-based wellness center she provided the traditional school nurse services, but added so much more, making her wellness center a sacred place of healing for the students. She dispensed condoms, provided information and education on everything from abstinence to comprehensive family planning services, and provided counseling and groups to help students overcome personal, and what is now referred to as historical, trauma. When she found a need that she could not attend to she brought in professionals to help. No one ever turned her down because they understood and accepted her call to action. She would tell her children with a mischievous grin that she would even have to bring counselors in the back door to make sure they could get in to help her students. She was far ahead of her time in starting one the first gay support groups in the country, including and supporting transgender, as well as gay and lesbian, students.

Dorotea did all of this in the 1980’s, long before anyone was willing to address the unmet health needs of children across America. With common sense, and “an act now, answer questions later” approach, she responded to the immediate needs of students creating a lasting legacy in public health for New Mexico and the nation. Her school-based wellness model has become the standard for schools throughout New Mexico.

When her youngest son tested HIV+ she helped him overcome his fear, and together they launched a campaign across Northern New Mexico to educate young people about HIV in the mid-1990s. Her love of her children made it easy to serve as the Grand Marshall, with her husband, of the Santa Fe Gay Pride Parade in the early 1990’s.

Never content to sit idle, during summer breaks she would serve as camp nurse for camps as far away as Rhinebeck, New York. Her favorite camp was Camp Corazones, which was devoted to children whose families had been touched by HIV and AIDS. Her great love of her family always meant she would include as many of her grandchildren and great grandchildren as she could.

Dorotea didn’t have hobbies in the traditional sense. Everything she did was with such devotion that it would seem as if it was all she cared about.

Her most devotional act was cooking for her family and friends. She is famous for her tortillas and pies, and there was always a pot of frijoles on the stove. Even when she was weak and frail towards the end of her life she always made sure everyone was fed. Her kitchen was one of abundance. No one ever left her table unfed, much less hungry, no matter how many people showed up unannounced or how little food was available. Somehow it was always enough. She never turned anyone away.

She was an avid gardener, although the word does not fully describe how hard she worked to bring earth’s bounty into the world. She loved pulling weeds most of all, and would pull weeds for hours if that is what it took. She turned her gardening into a devotional act, creating gardens all around her property for loved ones lost. She loved the land and all the creatures of Mother Earth.

Her hummingbird feeders came to represent her devotion to her late husband, who loved hummingbirds. She marveled at their beauty, but felt it was her duty to nurture them as well.

Her faith was unbound by church or religion. She was a spiritual being who merely walked the earth in human form. Her ability to see beyond the material plane, gave her a wisdom and a compassion that transcended what most think of as spiritual. She was a simple woman who devoted herself to bringing wholeness to those in need. She never feared confronting the reality of a situation and gave people the courage to look honestly at their lives.

Dorotea has received countless awards, including the prestigious Margaret Sanger Award from Planned Parenthood of the Rio Grande in 1994, she was featured in the Oprah Winfrey Magazine for her courage as a breast cancer survivor in the late 1990s, was honored as a legendary nurse by the State of New Mexico in 2004, and was given the 2017 School-Based Health Care Legacy Award by the New Mexico Alliance for School-Based Health Care for creating the first school-based wellness clinic in the State of New Mexico.

Dorotea will be missed, but the gifts she brought to her family, her friends, and her community will never be forgotten. She will live forever in the love and compassion she inspired, and will continue to inspire, in and for others.

Dorotea is preceded in death by her husband, José Amado Montoya, her grandson, Jason Ribas, her parents, Maximilliano and Demetria Roybal, and her brothers, Filemon, Juan, and Fares Roybal.

She is survived by her six children and their spouses and partners, Richard and Valerie (spouse) Montoya, Rita and Chris (spouse) Ribas, Steve and Denise (spouse) Montoya, Victoria and Larry (spouse) Lopez, Daniel Montoya and Fred Winter (partner), and Roger Montoya and Salvador Ruiz (partner); her grandchildren, Max, and Nicholas Montoya; Sophia Ribas; Kevin Montoya, Jessica Gonzales, and Deonna Chavez; Danielle Sandoval, and Kristin Kaneta; and 18 great grandchildren; her sisters, Emma Atencio, Eliza Valdez, Lola Borrael, Mabel Zamora, Toni Atencio, Flora Simental, and Dila Romero, and her brother, Pete Roybal.

Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to the “Dorotea ‘Dottie’ Scholarship Fund” for children at Moving Arts Española by donating through their website at or by check made payable to Moving Arts Española with “Dorotea Scholarship Fund” in the memo to PO Box 505, Velarde, NM 87587.

Services will be held as follows:

Rosary: 3:00 p.m., Saturday, May 30, 2020 on Facebook Live through the Facebook page of Daniel T. Montoya.

Mass of Christian Burial: Save The Date – Monday, August 10, 2020, if safe to hold a large mass at the St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, NM.

Burial: Save The Date – Monday, August 10, 2020, if safe to hold a funeral at the Santa Fe National Cemetery.

Reception: Save The Date – Monday, August 10, 2020, if safe to hold a reception at a location to be determined