Tucumcari mourns loss of Bettie Ditto

By Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun

Former Tucumcari Mayor Mary Mayfield called her �an icon.�
Others knew her as �Mrs. Tucumcari.��
Margaret Elizabeth �Bettie� Ditto, a Tucumcari leader and city promoter for six decades, died on Saturday at age 91.
She died of acute leukemia at Northwest Texas Hospital in Amarillo, Texas, said Robert Ferguson, a grandson.
Mayfield said Ditto dedicated her life to a better Tucumcari.
�It would be hard to judge the impact that she has had on so many people,� Mayfield said. �She was well-known throughout the state. In fact I don�t believe that Bettie ever met a stranger.�
�Bettie was a tireless advocate for her community and a valued friend. I will miss her greatly,� said Gov. Bill Richardson via his press liaison.
A former city commissioner and real estate developer, she is perhaps best known for building the Pow Wow Inn into one of the city�s focal points and a popular stop on historic Route 66.

A committed public servant, Ditto worked closely with state and local tourism agencies and was inducted into the Tourism Association of New Mexico�s Hall of Fame in 1999, said Lt. Gov. Diane Denish.
�I knew Bettie and had a lot of respect for her,� Denish said. �She was a strong advocate for women business owners. Her death is a loss not only for Tucumcari but for all of New Mexico.�
After inheriting the Route 66 Lins Motor Lodge in 1955, Ditto expanded it from its original nine rooms into the sprawling, 90-room �Pow Wow� complex.
She also was a partner and managed hotels, condos and apartments, including Albuquerque�s Sierra del Sol, Santa Fe�s Sheraton, Taos� Kachina Lodge and Las Vegas� Pendaries.
She remained a driving force in the community well into her 80s. She was elected to the City Commission at 85. At 89, she was ambassador and volunteer at the Tucumcari/Quay County Chamber of Commerce.
And her influence went beyond the city as she was well known among lawmakers in Santa Fe and even Washington D.C.
�While serving as mayor for the city of Tucumcari, I would visit Santa Fe on business and Gov. Bill Richardson would always ask how his friend Bettie Ditto was doing,� Mayfield said
Senators and representatives in Washington often called her by her first name, Mayfield said.
�Bettie Ditto was a tremendous force in Quay County.� She was a great business and community leader and she will be missed by all of us who knew her as a friend,� U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman said.�
�She was a good lady. We�re going to miss her,� said Jim Lafferty, who won the District 5 City Commission seat after Ditto decided not to seek re-election in 2006.
�She was extremely helpful. She brought me box after box of information about the city. Even though she wasn�t serving on the commission, she�d call me weekly to talk about city business, until her health failed.�
Lafferty said she also took Tucumcari�s message statewide and to Santa Fe. For example, she served as Tucumcari�s liaison with state�s film agency.
People who would pass through Tucumcari and stay at the Pow Wow would always ask for Bettie because she was such a gracious hostess, Mayfield said.
One of her most noteworthy accomplishments was the construction of the Pow Wow.
Ditto was 39 when she came to Tucumcari from Chicago in 1955, she told the Quay County Sun in 2005.
She said she was not intending to stay when she inherited Route 66�s Lins Motor Lodge after her father�s death.
But nobody wanted to buy the motor lodge. So she transformed the nine-unit Lins into the sprawling Pow Wow Lodge and soon began rallying behind a bastion of community causes.
�We expanded from nine rooms to 90,� Ditto said, adding she could not have done anything without the support � and funds � from her business partner John Farrell.
�I thought he was just a big Texan talking,� Ditto said of Farrell when they first met and he expressed interest in helping her rebuild. �But he came through on his word.�
Ditto said the motor lodge rapidly expanded, with the addition of a bowling alley in the early 1960s, a new 16-unit suite in 1975 and another series of units known as Pow Wow South.
The bowling alley became today�s Pow Wow West; the 16-unit suite became Pow Wow East; and the name Lins Motor Lodge became Pow Wow because of the many parties they threw.
�We used to have great parties,� Ditto said. �And when we had a party, we�d call it a pow wow. Everybody knew it by the Pow Wow so we changed the name. I even had a poodle I called Pow Wow.�
�Everything happened at the Pow Wow,� Ditto said. �So many family reunions, nightly entertainment, live music seven nights a week.�
In addition to the Pow Wow, Ditto owned hotels throughout the state.
�I fell in love with the hospitality industry,� Ditto said in 2005. �It was always fun. I met so many wonderful people,� she said.
Ditto also said she is glad she ended up sticking around. �Just think of all the good times and good fortune I would have missed,� she said.
She was born Sept. 14, 1916 in Arcola, Ill., the youngest of four children.
She is survived by a daughter Susan Hamilton-Dick of Portales, grandchildren, Mark Hardage of Conchas, Robert Ferguson of West Fork, Ark., Ashley Christian of Amarillo, Texas, Kimberly Downs of Amarillo, John Beasley of Frasier, Colo. and Ryan Hamilton of Dalhart, Texas, seven great-grandchildren and two great-great granchildren. She was preceded in death by a son, Bob Ditto.
At 7 p.m. Thursday a rosary will be recited at St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Tucumcari. At 2 p.m. Friday a memorial service will be held at Tucumcari Convention Center. Burial will follow at Tucumcari Park Memorial Cemetery.
Quay County Sun staff writer Thomas Garcia contributed to this report.