Humble, tireless and shy. That’s how friends describe Jerry Cline of Meadow Lake.
A widower with no children of his own, Cline has made the members of the Meadow Lake Parks Area Association his family, says fellow board member Jim Lane.
“He is one of the best people that you would ever meet,” said Lane of Cline. “All I have to do is ask and he’s in. There are obviously others who do volunteer work, but Jerry is one of the people behind the scenes that make the association a success.”
Lane said Cline is very modest in his approach to life and his contributions to the MLPAA.
Named one of this year’s Valencia County News-Bulletin’s Unsung Heroes, Cline said he was surprised when he got the call.
“Well, I was surprised,” Cline said, in a mellow voice. “I guess it’s nice to be recognized. I just enjoy what I do.”
On a weekly basis, Cline is at the park with his tractor, grading the roads, watering trees and working on other projects, Lane said.
“He builds ‘things’ around the park and for workshops,” he said. “For example, he made the air rocket contraption and powers it with his portable air compressor.”
Not long after the park association began hosting community events seven years ago, the idea to have workshops to build paper air rockets was hatched.
And what good is it to build a rocket if you can’t launch it, Cline thought. So he got to work and assembled contraptions made from PVC piping, plastic tubing, pressure gauges and valves.
The rockets are slipped over narrow tubes attached to the PVC and once the pressure is right, they fly.
Association board of directors member Bob Gostischa also nominated Cline for the Unsung Hero award, saying he was a tireless contributor to the park project.
“He is someone to look up to and an excellent role model,” Gostischa said. “He is always willing to pitch in when help is needed.”
In the six years Cline has been a part of the association, he has completed projects both large and small — a foot bridge over the small pond in the southwest corner of the park and the solar-powered pump system to circulate the water in said pond, built picnic tables and assembled them from kits, kept walking paths free of weeds and leveled by hand, put up poles for the bird house “trees” and the totem poles.
“Oh, what else … there’s just stuff all over the place,” he says with a laugh, looking out over the park.
Metal butterflies and stars made by Cline adorn poles, handcrafted bird houses are nestled in the trees near the gazebo in Hidden Hollow.
Cline’s penchant for building things goes back to his grandfather, Roy E. Cline, who built a filling station and cafe in 1934 at the intersection of N.M. 6 and 2 in Torrance County.
Yes, that Cline.
The famous pit stop along Interstate 40, known as Clines Corners, was sold to S. Lynn Smith in 1939, and the Cline family moved to the Flying C Ranch, about 12 miles east.
When Interstate 40 came through the ranch, they relocated to Albuquerque, where they built homes in the area of Indian School and Lomas Boulevard.
After high school, Cline left the state to take jobs in Washington and California. Eventually, he and his wife made their way back to New Mexico and settled in Meadow Lake.
It was about a year after the park association got going, that Cline, newly retired, jumped in.
“Jim was talking about turning it into a park, restoring the natural habitat, holding events,” he said. “I thought it sounded good; give the kids something to do, so I decided to be a part of things.”
Cline says the work isn’t really work because he enjoys it so much. From working on the walking paths to helping build the gazebo, it’s all a joy.
“I made the sign at the park entrance. Just found some wood and put it together,” he says. “I do the hayride during the pumpkin hunt, and I help hide the pumpkins. We might have 200, 250 pumpkins. The kids love it.”
His work at the park isn’t all building and tractor operations. Cline is a familiar face helping out at craft workshops, from the air rockets to the bike repair days and making friendship bracelets.
“It’s a fun place. We get to do a lot of stuff for the kids. One time we made rain sticks even. Although, I think the parents had more fun with that one than the kids,” Cline says with a laugh. “I don’t know. I like building things. I’m not going to step back and be a couch potato.”
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.