‘Deep roots of love’; MMS staff, students memorialize dedicated teacher

‘Deep roots of love’; MMS staff, students memorialize dedicated teacher

From the Las Vegas Optic

For nearly three decades, Patricia Pace could be found teaching in classrooms across New Mexico, including Memorial Middle School in Las Vegas. Pace passed away suddenly late last month, but her students and coworkers have made sure her memory will live on for years to come.

Those who cherished their time with Pace, including several former students, gathered in front of Memorial Middle School last week to remember Pace and to dedicate a memorial in her honor.

The dedication took place on May 20, the final day of the school year, and was spearheaded by Principal Carla Pacheco.

Pacheco said the small ceremony was meant to provide some closure for Pace’s students and coworkers, and to allow her legacy to live on at Memorial Middle School.

“It was beautiful. More than I even anticipated,” Pacheco said. “I really wanted to commemorate her. It’s been a challenging year, and here’s someone who showed up every day and did her best for the children of Las Vegas.”

The memorial was placed on the southeast side of the school, near the intersection of Fourth Street and Baca Avenue. It comprises flowers and a crabapple tree, which pays tribute to an orchard Pace’s family once ran, according to Pacheco.

Originally from Embudo, New Mexico, Pace earned a master’s degree in special education from New Mexico Highlands University and taught school across the state for 28 years. She and her husband, Richard, were married for 40 years, and happily called Las Vegas their home.

Pace also had a lifelong love of music. She studied it in school initially, and she could play multiple instruments, Pacheco said. At Memorial Middle School, Pace taught special education and mathematics.

The private memorial dedication was attended by Pace’s family, coworkers and several former students. Pacheco said some students spoke at the service, including an English-language learner who told those gathered how Pace helped him through some difficulties he was experiencing with math. He said because of Pace’s patience with him, he was able to understand it better, and said he is now doing well in the eighth grade.

Pacheco said another student recalled having “battles” with Pace over schoolwork, but said Pace never gave up on him, and that in the end, he understood what she was trying to do and that she wasn’t giving up because she cared about him.

Pace died after a short fight with cancer, Pacheco said, just weeks after receiving a diagnosis. Her absence was felt immediately by her students, and Pacheco said many of them struggled to understand why she was gone. The tree and the service helped bring everyone some closure, according to Pacheco.

“She left some deep roots of love and compassion for the students,” Pacheco said. “Hopefully it left something positive for the students to take away as well: That kindness really matters, and the connections we make in our lives are forever in our hearts.”