Mary Santucci Ludi was born to Maria di Urbino Caponi and Angelina Cicino Caponi in Dawson, N.M., a coal mining camp in Colfax County, on June 7, 1916. Her mother died in a train accident, as she was walking across a rail road trestle with Mary. Eight-months-old Mary survived.
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Mary died Friday at her apartment in Santa Fe. No services are planned.
After her mother's death, Mary was adopted by Domenico and Maria Santucci, who had a daughter named Angelina. Both natural and adoptive parents came from Italy.
The Santucci's moved to Maxwell, N.M., a farming area in Colfax County. Mary graduated from Maxwell in May of 1934. This was during the time of the Great Depression. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had started the "National Youth Corps" in which students who wanted to further their education could do so.
In the fall of 1934 Mary left for Las Vegas, N.M., to attend Normal University, which later became New Mexico Highlands University. At the age of 21 and while taking 12 quarter hours, Mary was allowed to start her teaching career in a one-room school in Chaperito, N.M. Her second year of teaching was at Conchas Dam High School. When Conchas Dam High School closed the following year she went to teach at Villanueva Junior High School and eventually to the West Las Vegas Schools.
The founding of the West Las Vegas High School, with the Christian Brothers would give the community a good solid foundation, which is still going strong today. Mary taught in the West Las Vegas School system for 23 of her 36 years as an educator. She immediately felt welcome by the West Las Vegas community and loved working with the students and their parents.
Mary earned two degrees from Highlands University, her B.A. in 1940 and her M.A. in 1958. Her research project for her master's program was in the flora of White Sands and the Carrizozo lava beds. This research is in the Botanical Journal of 1959. In 1978, Mary Ludi received the National Educator's Association Hall of Fame Award, and in 1993 the New Mexico Highlands University Distinguished Alumni Award. In 2007 an endowment scholarship was established in her name to ensure that the youths of Maxwell as well as the those of West Las Vegas could have an opportunity for success by helping them financially while attending New Mexico Highlands University.
Mary was united in marriage to Phillip Ludi on Dec. 24, 1937. The 23-year marriage produced three children. Margaret Ludi Tapley, who lives in Las Vegas, N.M., her offspring are Rosemarie Maestas and George Tapley. Phillip M. Ludi Jr. (deceased) of La Mirada, Calif. and wife, Alexis, offspring Janet and Nancy Ludi. Darwin B. Ludi and wife, Patricia, of Chula Vista, Calif., and their three children Domenick Ludi, Stephanie Ludi and Melissa Ludi. Besides her seven grandchildren Mary has several great grandchildren.
Mary was a lifelong Catholic, she was a member of the San Isidro Catholic Church in Santa Fe, N.M., where she had made her home for the last 32 years.
Published in Las Vegas Optic on Apr. 5, 2013