Lee Montoya

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Lee Montoya

Lee (Librado) Ramirez Montoya, an influential Albuquerque small business owner and veteran's advocate, died Thursday, January 4, 2018, at the age of 94.

Mr. Montoya was a partner in Montoya Bros., a pioneering Hispanic-owned contracting and plumbing business that helped build many commercial and residential properties during Albuquerque's post-War expansion of the 1940s-1960s. Later, Mr. Montoya and his wife, Eva, established two Westside businesses, Lee's Plumbing & Heating and Homeowners' Supply Center. During his years as a businessman, he was a member of the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, El Buen Samaritano United Methodist Church, and was a Commander of Post 6216 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

Industrious from a young age, Mr. Montoya started a bicycle repair business on his parent's small farm near Marble Avenue and 15th Street, sold newspapers in front of a recently-constructed Kimo Theatre (his customers included Senator Dennis Chavez, who gave "the kid" a dollar for a 5¢ paper in the 1930s), and established a small legion of young ice-cream vendors by hiring his school friends for his distributorship, even though he was still a child himself. Later, he worked for the Santa Fe Railroad before enlisting in the U.S. Army at age 19 and serving in Europe. Back in Albuquerque, he returned to the railroad, which quickly promoted him to Inspector, while he studied the plumbing code in his spare time. When his brother and some friends headed to Santa Fe for a plumbing license exam, he tagged along. Since he had "never laid hands on a pipe," they teased him for even attempting the test, but he passed with flying colors anyway. It was a short-lived victory since, lacking funds for the required bond, the state board refused to license a "skinny kid with no money." Surprisingly, the lieutenant governor (and future U.S. senator) Joseph M. Montoya (no relation) heard of his situation and intervened to make sure the young Army veteran got the hard-won license. Living with his wife and young children in a small house behind the commercial building he constructed at 315 Rio Grande Boulevard near Old Town (still standing and now the home of Silver Mountain Designs), he soon became a master plumber who served the Albuquerque community for 40 years.

Mr. Montoya was especially proud of his military service as a combat engineer with the 1276th Engineer Combat Battalion during World War II in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and France. The 1276th was renowned for supporting the crossing of the Roer River at Rurdorf, Germany in 1945, receiving a Presidential Unit Citation for honor and distinction from President Truman in 1947. In 1992, the surviving members of the 1276th ("The Fighting Mojacks") again received a Presidential Unit Citation, this time from President George H.W. Bush, on the 45th anniversary of the epic crossing of a raging river under deadly enemy fire by "sheer courage and determination."

Always an adventurer, Mr. Montoya was among the first homeowners in the new "West Mesa" subdivision, and later moved his family to the far South Valley, where he maintained a fruit orchard of over 150 trees. Eventually, he settled in Westgate Heights, on land that was once the vast and empty desert where, as a child, he and his brothers might have hunted rabbits for their family nine miles east, on a farm near Old Town.

Mr. Montoya is survived by his children: Lee Jr., Yvonne Bonzie (husband Dennis), Eva (husband Steve), Sandra (husband Eddie), and Deian; sister: Edna; sons-in-law: Dennis, Steve, and Eddie; grandchildren: Matthew (wife Anika), Kyle (wife Erica) Ryan, Easton (wife Kimberly), Julie (partner Michael), Aaron, Christy (husband John), Sara, and Holly; great-grandchildren: Tabitha; Jennifer (husband Jake), David, Ailey, Trinity, Madison, Ethan, Addison, Savanna, Gavin, Coleson, Bowen, Graham, Alora, Julian, Mason, Bryson, Zoey, and Owen; and one great-great-granddaughter, Laila.

He was preceded in death by his parents: Cardenio and Elvira; paternal grandparents: Donaciano and Maria Montoya; maternal grandparents: Heracio (Eric) and Rosita Ramirez; siblings: Cardenio, Jr. (Neno) and Estaquio (Caco); and his loving wife of 46-years, Eva.

Funeral services will be held Tuesday, January 9, 2018, 10:30 am, at Legacy Church East Campus, 4701 Wyoming Blvd NE, Albuquerque 87109.

Please visit our online guestbook for

Mr. Montoya at


Published in Albuquerque Journal on Jan. 7, 2018
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