By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer
Rosalie Powers White played the roles of teacher, wife, mother and leader, but it was her work as a Portales historian that brought her recognition Thursday.
At the rest stop near the Blackwater Draw Museum on U.S. 70, the New Mexico Historic Women Marker Initiative has placed a roadside marker honoring the late Rose White for her years of work recording the history of early Portales settlers.
“My mother had such respect for these old-timers,” Rose White’s daughter, Ruth Burns, said, and credited that respect as her mother’s motivation.
At the dedication at the Portales Public Library, several family members talked about Rose White’s life. Nadine White, Rose White’s daughter-in-law, said her mother-in-law was particularly proud of helping found the Society for the Development of Exceptional Children, which educated children with disabilities.
Also, Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega Jr. read a proclamation honoring the historian, and state Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, encouraged listeners to share their stories so the history wouldn’t be lost.
“History is what we learn from,” he said.
Ingle helped with the legislation that allowed for 54 roadside markers honoring significant women in New Mexico history. He said nine of the signs have been installed by the state Department of Transportation.
Pat Burns, Rose White’s grandson, spoke of enjoying visits to his grandmother’s house, where she had cookies. As children, he said, he and his siblings didn’t know about her historical work.
“We thought she was all about us,” he said.
Pat Burns went on to say that Rose White was unassuming, quiet and intelligent.
“She never reached for fame or social status, but was self-confident and felt at home in any group of people,” he continued.
In 1923, Rose White married R.E. “Eddie” White and moved to the Portales area.
As a Portales High School history teacher, Rose White began to wonder about the history of Portales and the High Plains. She began interviewing old-timers and writing their stories, starting with her husband’s mother and step-father.
Rose White’s work was published in newspapers and the New Mexico Folklore Magazine, and she often gave presentations on her findings. Her works were never gathered into a book, but Ruth Burns hopes to complete that task.