Famous Dead Americans in New Mexico

May 12, 2011 | 0 comments

This week’s Alibi features the theme “7 Wonders of New Mexico.” Of course, I’m partial to the story “7 Grave Wonders: Rest in Peace Famous Americans.”

Among those they recognize:

Billy the Kid: Nov. 23, 1859-July 14, 1881

Legends about this outlaw will go on forever, but we do know that he was shot to death at age 21. A cage has been placed around Billy the Kid’s entire grave because thieves have attempted to steal his tombstone multiple times. You can find his “jail cell” at Old Fort Sumner Cemetery in De Baca County.

D.H. Lawrence: Sept. 11, 1885-March 2, 1930

An exceptional poetic novelist all the way from England. Lawrence and his wife, Frieda, moved to New Mexico in 1924 after visiting the area just one time. You can travel to their lovely home, now known as Kiowa Ranch, in Taos. Rumor has it that Lawrence’s ashes are mixed into the cement of the memorial building on the property.

Dennis Hopper: May 17, 1936-May 29, 2010

While filming Easy Rider in Taos in ’68, director and actor Dennis Hopper fell in love with the town and everything around it. If you make your way up to northern New Mexico, stop by his grave site at Jesus Nazareno Cemetery and ask around. You’re bound to hear some stories about him.

Smokey Bear: Circa 1950-Nov. 9, 1976

Smokey Bear has been a national symbol for fire prevention ever since the real-life cub was rescued from a destructive forest fire in southern New Mexico. After 26 years, this famous black bear passed away in his sleep; his grave is now on display at the Smokey Bear Historical Park located in Capitan.

HAM the Astrochimp: Circa July 1956-Jan. 19, 1983

He was the world’s first chimpanzee to ever rocket into space. HAM proved that it was possible to travel to orbit in under 17 minutes, then lived for more than 26 years on this planet. He’s now buried in front of the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo.

A few who didn’t make the list: Kit Carson, Mabel Dodge Lujan (who brought D.H. Lawrence here), and isn’t an artist named Georgia O’Keefe buried in New Mexico? What does it say about New Mexico that two of these famous Americans are animals?

A Good Goodbye