Paul “Joseph” Moya
Photo courtesy of the Moya family
Paul “Joseph” Moya, left, received the Honorary American FFA Degree the year his son, Paul Moya, center, was national FFA president, along with Sylvia Jaramillo, right, the mother of his children.
A beautiful, monumental soul.
That’s how Paul Moya described his father, Paul “Joseph” Moya, after his death earlier this month.
“He really loved teaching people about life, and I think that’s how he made an impact that was so deep and widespread,” said Paul, the youngest of Moya’s three children.
A father figure to many in the community, Moya spent decades teaching agriculture at Belen middle and high schools. His death on Monday, Oct. 3, was felt by many.
“So many people said when they heard Dad died, it felt like their own father died,” said Paul. “People said they are who they are today because of our dad. ‘He believed in me when no one else did.’”
“As kids, we naively thought that was unique to the three of us but, as we got older, we realized he stepped into that role for so many people. As hard as it is to mourn his loss, we’ve come to the realization the entire community mourns with us because of the titan he was in the community.”
Moya, 71, was raised on the family farm in La Costancia, the eldest of six children. He graduated from Belen High School in 1969 and completed his undergraduate degree in agriculture at New Mexico State University and his master’s degree at New Mexico Highlands University.
He started his teaching career at Belen Middle School and then moved to Belen High School, where he served as the agricultural education teacher and FFA advisor for 27 years. He received both the State FFA Degree and the Honorary American FFA Degree.
He was the longest-tenured member of the board of supervisors for the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District, first serving from 1974 to 1977, then returning in 1985. Moya served on the board 25 years total, holding positions including chairman, treasurer and parliamentarian.
Moya was one of the founders of the Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area, which is owned and operated by the VSWCD, planting one of the first trees at the conservation area in 2003.
A volunteer firefighter with the Tomé-Adeline Fire Department in his younger years, Moya was also a lifelong member of Tomé Immaculate Conception Church, where he was an altar server and played the guitar and sang in the Spanish choir.
His partner of 18 years, Peggy Gutjahr, described Moya as a complex, thoughtful man.
“He was just a wonderfully complex person. He was so enjoyable and had a great sense of humor. It was hard to stay mad at him,” Gutjahr said. “You would tell him to be somewhere and he would be late. He’d arrive with a bag of apples. How can you be mad?”
While Moya taught her about irrigation, farms and tractors, Gutjahr was able to take him traveling to new places, something they both greatly enjoyed.
Photos courtesy of the Moya family
Paul “Joseph” Moya, seated far left, and his family during the celebration of his 71st birthday this past May.
“He was the kind of person when you were with him, you knew what he enjoyed,” she said. “He loved to learn. It was interesting as time went on. I was always impressed with what he could do.”
With an innate knack for fixing things, Moya’s brother, Ron, said they spent a lot of time as kids out in the family garage tinkering around and “cranking stuff up.”
“I remember as kids, we would find some old engine and he had this unique sense. Somehow he could figure out to adjust the carburetor and make it run,” Ron recalled.
On horses, fat-tired bicycles and eventually an old Willys Jeep, Ron and his brother explored the hills and arroyos around the family’s farm, managing to never come to permanent harm.
The brothers also took guitar lessons together, a hobby Moya continued his entire life. Ron heard stories about his brother just showing up to local restaurants with his guitar and spend hours playing.
Whether it was entertaining the dinner crowd or a hay crew making the long trek to Capitan, Moya was always willing to entertain.
“He wasn’t the greatest singer, but he enjoyed himself,” Ron said with a laugh.
With his background in farming and Moya’s family farm just north of Whitfield, VSWCD Board Chairman Abel Camarena said Moya had a deep love of the land.
“He wanted to make sure the land was being cared for, especially the farm land. He had a passion for farming and could bridge the farming of land with conserving land,” Camarena said. “He could see the value in both. He was a real champion of soil health and water conservation. He was quiet, but when he spoke he said the most wise things.
“It was nice to serve with someone who had land wisdom you can’t find in textbooks. He had his fingers in the earth. He was my friend, colleague and mentor. I’m going to miss him.”
A comment left on Facebook in response to his father’s passing noted the world feels smaller without him, his son said.
“I think we all recognize he would say, ‘Better fill it with love and kindness.’ We need to fill that void, fill it with the legacy he left us.”
The family requests in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Tomé Immaculate Conception Church ”Renovation Project,” the Friends of Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area or the charity of your choice in Joseph’s honor.
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.