In Memory

Secundino Sandoval - Class Of 1952

Secundino Sandoval

Well known artist and Los Alamos icon Secundino “Sec” Sandoval passed away January 8, 2022 after a short but courageous battle from complications due to COVID-19. He was 88 years old.

He was a man that you can’t describe in just a couple of words. In his tributes and those who knew him described him as: a gentle soul, caring, kind, funny, talented, one of a kind, nicest man I ever met, generous, patient, storyteller, teacher, quiet, always had a smile and a hug for you, mentor, coach, spiritual, sweetest man I ever met, humble and loving. From his son Mark, “he was the best dad I could have ever had, he was my hero”. To his family and many friends, he was special.

Sec was a quiet humble man who you may call “salt of the earth”. He enjoyed the simple things in life like nature, art, music, sports, family, and innumerable friends. He never quite embraced the modern world and its technology. He never owned a computer or sent a text message. He still corresponded by writing notes and cards by hand or a phone call.

During Covid he wanted to know when the banks put in those new drive thru windows as he enjoyed going inside to talk with everybody. He had his daily routines whether going to the store, reading his paper, or meeting the fellows at the local donut shop. Sec loved to tell stories. Especially about his early days in Los Alamos. He had an incredible memory for details and would fascinate all with his tales.

Sec was born in Buena Vista, NM in 1933. He loved to tell stories about his humble childhood and growing up with his brothers and sisters. He would say a simple treat like some candy or getting a coloring book with a crayon was special.  As a child he loved to draw with his crayons.

His family moved to Los Alamos in 1944 because his father, who was a carpenter, got a job working for the Zia Company. His life in Los Alamos was rough for him at first. His first day of school he got in a fight and was sent home because the other kids were picking on him because he didn’t speak very good English and had a stutter. He eventually overcame his obstacles to be well recognized in high school. His senior year he was Class President, Senior Class Favorite, Most Talented, Best all Around Senior, Captain of the Football Team and voted to the All-Conference Team his junior and senior seasons.

One of his proudest accomplishments was being part of the 1950-1951 Football Team that went undefeated under the legendary Coach Bob Cox. He had numerous stories about Coach Cox and his unique ways of motivating his players. In his words, “He made us into men”.

Sec also was a talented musician who played the guitar and trumpet. He got to meet his favorite trumpeter Louie Armstrong in an elevator after he saw his show in Las Vegas and got his autograph. He was also a member of the Orchestra, Band, and Choir. Teachers also started to notice his incredible artistic skills and he was winning awards for some of his paintings and drawings. One of his accomplishments was to paint an 8’ x 40’ mural in the drafting /mechanical room at the high school that took him 3 months to complete.

After high school Sec attended the University of New Mexico and Adams State College where he received Bachelor of Arts Degrees in Language and Mathematics. He was a proud member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity and played trumpet for the University of New Mexico Band that got to march in the Rose Bowl Parade.

After College, Sec spent 2 years serving his Country in the United States Army. He met the love of his life Stella during this time. They were married in 1960 and made Los Alamos their permanent home. Their only son Mark was born in 1961.

One of Sec’s other passions besides painting was his love of sports. From the early 1960s until a couple of years ago, you could see Sec at just about every Los Alamos Hilltoppers sporting event. He loved going to games with his friends Lou Cutler and Willy Martinez and terrorizing the Refs that knew them by heart and the opposing coaches. You didn’t dare sit in their seats at Basketball and Football games. His favorites were Boys Basketball and Football and Girls Volleyball and Basketball. He would sit through all three games, being one of the first to arrive at the Gym. When he couldn’t attend, he listened to their games on the radio. He was active in the Topper Booster Club serving as President in the late 1960s.

He was always very active in doing numerous fundraisers for Topper Organizations and donating numerous paintings that were auctioned off to raise money for different sports and clubs. He was proud that he got to serve as the Grand Marshal of the 1996 and 2018 Homecoming Parades. He was given a Lifetime Los Alamos High School Athletic Pass, which he worshiped, and was inducted into the Los Alamos High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2019 in which he gave a very long, humorous speech, twice.

Sec was employed off and on by the Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1952 till 1974. He was an accomplished Senior Draftsman/Illustrator and met many of his friends while employed at LANL. In 1974 he asked for a 3 month leave of absence from his job so he could put all his time into pursuing his art passion. At his first art show that summer he sold out all of his paintings. He promptly retired from LANL and like the saying goes, the rest is history.

Most people knew Sec for his incredible artistic talent. His Professional Watercolor paintings are nationally recognized, and he won numerous awards for his works at the local, state, and national level. He won numerous Best of Show awards and Purchase Awards where they keep the painting for their private collections. He sold close to 9,000 original paintings during his esteemed career. His paintings hang in private collections worldwide.

He was the featured Artist at several events including the Bernalillo Wine Festival, Feria Artesana, and Weems Art shows where copies of his original painting for the show were made into prints and sold as part of the event. During the peak of his career, his one man shows would sell out in a matter of hours. He was very proud to have done a show with the famous San Ildefonso Potter Maria Martinez at the Governors Palace in Santa Fe in 1978. He did an incredible painting of Maria that many consider to be one of his best works. He was also a distinguished member of the Watercolor Honor Society.

What distinguished Sec from other successful artists is that he could paint anything. He didn’t paint the same subject over and over. Each of his works was unique and he was a master of landscapes, pottery, still life’s, animals, flowers, and of course his favorite, aspens. His aspen paintings were what he called his bread and butter and put “tortillas on the table”.

He was also a people person. He loved talking to people at shows, at his studio, or if you met him on the street. He could remember customer’s names and which painting they had purchased. He was proud that generations of families had purchased his artwork. At art shows other artists would come over and spend hours looking at his work. He would always take time to talk to them and explain how he was able to capture his magic. He would say he is just learning how to paint. He also taught numerous art classes to all levels of kids from kindergarten to high school. Throughout all his fame and success, he always remained humble and true to his family, friends, and himself. He remembered where he came from and was a philanthropist donating hundreds of paintings and prints to various organizations raising money for worthy causes. He could never say no.

Sec was a very religious and devoted man. At his wife Stella’s suggestion, he was baptized into the Catholic Church and became a regular attendee of services at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. Sec and Stella would always sit in the same seats, even after Stella passed away. Father John Carney said that my dad would attend every funeral because he knew everyone, and they served good food afterwards. He also enjoyed having coffee and donuts with his friends after mass. He started and ended each day by reading words of scripture and prayer. He would write words of inspiration on his aspen tree paintings.

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