Belen

With a lifetime spanning more than a century, Fred Tully of Belen died Tuesday.

Tully, 103, was a resident of Belen since 1987. He gained fame for his endurance and for his friendly personality.

Tully was born in 1899 in a little rockhouse in Hondo, N.M. His father opened a general store in what became Glencoe, N.M., where he began working at age 8. At the same age, Tully began attending Glencoe School, where he studied through the eighth grade.

He then went to high school in Tularosa with his sister, Suzanne. Tully never graduated high school, but, at the age of 17, he took a job surveying the road built the from Mescalero Indian Reservation to Hondo.

In 1918, he went to Mesilla Park to study at the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts. However, he soon had to leave school, as he was the first of many to fall ill from a strain of influenza, which proved fatal for more than 1,000 people in the area.

After recovering, Tully joined the U.S. Marine Corps in the height of World War I. However, the war ended before he left boot camp, and he was discharged in February 1919.

Tully returned to New Mexico and worked as a mechanic at his uncle’s garage in Tularosa. He worked around the state as a surveyor and continued his career as a mechanic.

Tully took over the family ranch in Glencoe when his brother, Gerald, left to work for a mine. He spent three years keeping up the ranch before returning to surveying and road maintenance. Soon after, he married his first wife, Opal Miller.

The 30-year-old took a job with the U.S. Customs Service in 1929, working in New Mexico, Arizona, California and Texas until 1966.

He divorced Opal in 1946. They shared one daughter, Virginia. Tully married Erma Clark that same year.

Soon after, the couple moved to El Paso where they lived until 1978. They then moved to Alamogordo, where Erma passed away in 1987. He then moved to Belen to live with family.

He soon became active at the Belen Senior Center, where he enjoyed socializing, dancing, eating and reading. He spent every day at the center, where he eventually met Odelia Baca, whom he married the same year that he turned 100-years-old.

Tully said he “fell in love with her after first seeing her,” according to Odelia and Tully’s friends at the center. Tully called Odelia his “angel.”

Odelia was a lot younger than Tully, and when people accused him of ‘robbing the cradle,’ he said, “Yes, and I sure love it!”

Odelia said the three years they were married were “very happy times. He was very loving, kind, gentle and open.”

She also said he was a very giving person and loved to help people. Tully was also interested in politics and was proud of the fact that he was a Marine.

“Election Day was ‘his’ day,” Odelia said. “He always voted … he was proud of America.”

Tully was a sociable person. Odelia said he loved to be out and in the public eye. He also loved to make friends.

On his 100th birthday, Tully said, “I make friends with everybody … I arrested people (when working for Customs), and they still liked me.”

“He reached out to everybody, and everybody loved him so much,” Odelia said.

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Julia Selby Smith