Family, friends recall victim

Darrell Maurina

State police officials said last evening they have made no arrests and are not releasing any new information on the death of Joanie Vance, who was found dead in the Sundowner Gallery on First Street Tuesday evening.

Early on in the investigation, it was released by the New Mexico State Police Investigation Division that vance was discovered at the gallery, transported to the Dan C. Trigg Memorial Hospital at 6:38 p.m. where she was pronounced dead. She was then transported to Albuquerque, but family members gathered at the Vance family ranch south of Tucumcari said they hope whoever is responsible is caught soon.

“There is complete disbelief that someone would shoot someone when they could have just taken the money and run,” said Vance’s eldest daughter Jamie Jones, principal of Valley View Elementary School in las Cruces. “We believe these people will not get away with it.”

“The people that did this didn’t just take a life, they took a mother, a wife, a grandmother and a very loved member of the community,” said Vance’s youngest daughter, Jenny Vance, who recently moved back to the family ranch.

“My dad loved my mom so it was devastating for him, but he is surrounded by people who love him,” she said. “Justice will be served by either the law or God, and hopefully both.”
Jones said her parents married shortly after her mother graduated from Tucumcari High School in 1959, and her father spent about three decades as a ranch manager before retiring and buying his own ranch. While her three daughters were growing up, Vance never worked outside the home but dedicated herself to being a wife, mother, and homemaker. Jones said her mother had only begun working at the Sundowner Gallery and Gifts store last year.
“She enjoyed visiting with people at the store; that’s why it was so tragic what happened,” Jones said. “She enjoyed doing something that was different from what she had done most of her life.”

Vance’s employer, Bill Curry, had known Vance since high school, and was pleased to have her work in his store selling oil paintings and bronze works.

“She was just a lovable sweet lady who was willing to help people and enjoyed being around people,” he said. “The gallery contains my artwork and we have gifts and different kinds of things.”

Vance’s middle daughter, Jo Ana Pineda, a former teacher in Dexter and Roswell said, “We grew up without a TV living way out on a ranch, and I seem to remember that she read to us whenever we were good,” Pineda said. “She loved birds, animals and especially baby animals. She would walk for hours just smelling things.”

Vance’s granddaughter, Cory Fernandez, said she decided to major in elementary education at New Mexico State University due to her grandmother’s influence.

“While Vance’s husband James declined to speak with the media, Pineda said he and the rest of the family have been overwhelmed by support from the community. “We have had so many friends come and help us through this and encourage us and let us know they love us, especially my dad,” Pineda said. ’We would like for this community to know how much we appreciate them.”

Most in Tucumcari remembered Vance for her constant willingness to take time for virtually everyone.

“Her family, the Troutmans, and my family were some of the first families to settle this area,” said Jeff Lewalling of Tucumcari Floral and Gifts, a long time friend. Lewalling said Vance’s eagerness to take time out of her day for others was especially memorable to him. “Whether it was in the post office or the supermarket, she was always ready to chitchat,” said Lewalling. “She always had time to be friendly.”

For others, one of the keenest memories was the caring for institutions as well as people.

“She loved the museum. When we got our water tank, Joanie planted water lillies in the tank and brought goldfish from her ranch,” said Bruce Nutt, Director of the Tucumcari Historical Museum. “She called the goldfish her ‘little friends’. “