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Pamela Mahala Galbraith

1948 - 2016 Obituary Condolences
Pamela Mahala Galbraith Obituary
Galbraith, Pamela Mahala

It is with tremendous sadness and heavy hearts that we announce the unexpected passing of our precious wife, mother, and grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend, Pamela.

She is remembered for her abiding love for her husband of 38 years, Jerry R. Vigil; daughters, Jacqueline Vigil Ortiz (Neil) and Jennifer Vigil Smith (Scott); and her five granddaughters: Jaden, Julia, Suri, Madeline, and Faith. Pam is also survived by her sister, Beth Tellefsen of Cheboygan, MI; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Pam was born on March 6, 1948 in Cheboygan, Michigan to Rolyn and Marjorie Galbraith. After completing a degree in nursing, she decided to go west in her VW Bug. Finding herself in Albuquerque and in need of money, she took a nursing position with BCMC/UNMH. Never did Pam realize just how impacting her life would be in the decades to follow. She would go on to hold 17 different positions within UNMH, including Staff Nurse, Head Nurse, Instructor for Staff Development, Director of Nursing, Nurse Educator, and Administrator, overseeing numerous departments, including one dear to her heart, Mental Health.

Pam always knew that her calling was one dedicated to caring for others: nursing was her first and only choice. She served selflessly, always striving to improve the lives of others in any capacity possible. In 1993, she spearheaded the mission to not only save some of New Mexicos's rural hospitals, but to firmly establish them and see them thrive. In so doing, she impacted tens of thousands of lives, giving these communities the healthcare they deserve and need. The communities of Santa Rosa, Truth or Consequences, and Deming have felt Pam's contributions in far-reaching ways.

Pam's mission continued even after retiring from UNMH after 33 years of service. She then stepped into the role of CEO of Value Options, managing the state's 17 behavioral health organizations. She embraced the challenge, stating that no one else had a position quite like hers. She excelled in her new role, making New Mexico a better place for those requiring mental health services.

Pam has always been known as a "mover and shaker," never satisfied with the status quo and always on a mission to improve lives and mentoring those who caught her vision. In 1993, she received the YWCA Women on the Move award for her work in rural communities. In 2003, she was presented the Governor's Award for Outstanding New Mexico Women for her role in helping New Mexico's women and girls. She was also one of two women inducted into the Hall of Fame for those same efforts. That same year, Pam was named to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Committee on Violence Against Women by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

In 2003, Pam was elected by her peers to the governing council of the American Hospital Association Section for Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Services. The following year, Pam was appointed by Governor Richardson to serve on the Behavioral Health Planning Council, continuing to effect change for thousands of people. In 2006, she was the recipient of the Women of Influence award for her work with Value Options.

Having retired twice, Pam was ready to accept a new challenge. In 2008, she was tapped by the Legislative Finance Committee, whereby she helped shape state-wide public policy. She embraced this role and loved it more than she could have imagined. Her colleagues were by far the youngest she'd worked with, but in her eyes, the brightest she'd ever had the privilege to serve alongside. They were "rising stars," according to Pam. She learned a tremendous amount from her colleagues (though she never could master Excel), but also served as "Mentor-in-Chief" and "Staff Nurse," triaging various ailments, whether minor aches or acute situations.

She was a Program Evaluator III (the highest level possible) and focused on Behavioral Health, the Department of Health Facilities, and the Aging and Long-Term Services Department. In 2014, her office was awarded the Excellence in Research Methods, given to only 3 offices across the country. In 2015, her office received the Excellence in Evaluation Award, an honor recognizing the sole office in the nation determined to have contributed the most to the field of legislative program evaluation for the 4-year period of 2012-2015. On this week (the week Pam was due to retire from the LFC), the NM State Legislature planned to award her with a Proclamation, recognizing her for her myriad accomplishments of service to our state. Her family received this honor on her behalf on April 15, 2016.

Always a thrill-seeker, Pam loved roller coasters (the bigger, the better), white water rafting, and attempted bungee jumping. Unbeknownst to her husband, she took sky-diving lessons, accomplishing a single jump and landing on the golf course where he was playing. After an earful from him, she was banned from ever jumping out of a plane again.

Pam loved traveling and enjoyed time in Europe, Great Britain, and the former Soviet Union, as well as traveling throughout the United States. She made friends everywhere she went and always opened her home to anyone in need of a place to stay, hosting countless people over the years.

Pam's life has been marked by tremendous influence and positive change for New Mexicans throughout the state, not only in her work, but also in her personal life. Pam was very active with the Los Altos Kiwanis Club, whose efforts aid children within the community. She was a strong advocate for children who faced difficult and painful circumstances, desiring to improve their lives in any way possible and offer them opportunities to achieve their dreams.

The titles Pam has held do not tell the whole story of her contributions to organizations, to our state, to our country, or to our family. Always humble and not one to boast about her many accomplishments, Pam summed her life up in one simple statement: "I've had a magical life."

A Celebration of Life service will be held on Thursday, April 28, 2016 at 10:30 am at the Albuquerque International Balloon Museum at 9201 Balloon Museum Drive NE; reception immediately following.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be offered to the Children's Grief Center at 3001 Trellis Dr. NW, Albuquerque, NM 87107.
Published in Albuquerque Journal on Apr. 17, 2016
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