Her mission is to teach

Chelle Delaney

Kids fit her mission.
Connie Falls is opening a small Christian early education center for preschoolers in the old St. Michael’s Misson church building. It’s called the Mission Preschool and is at Jackson and Aber streets.
Its mission statement, as Falls reads, is “to provide a Christ-centered non-denominational” center where children will learn about Jesus Christ and Christian values … as well as the educational fundamentals – reading, writing and arithmetic.
“They’ll be totally prepared for kindergarten when they leave here,” said Falls, whose classes will be for three to five year olds.
“I’ll be working in tandem with the parents, too,” Falls said.
Falls could see her preschool center blossoming despite years of neglect and disrepair when she and her husband, Don Falls, bought the mission property more than a year ago.
“Besides I missed being around kids, and I missed teaching desperately,” said Falls, who has taught primarily in Christian-based school programs for 14 years in California and Arizona.
With a lot of sweat equity and enthusiasm, she and her husband are bringing the old mission church and its adjoining buildings back to some of thier former radiance.
The new pre-school area, which possibily served as ministertry offices, is now decorated with child-friendly murals, floors and walkways.
One mural that Connie Falls is working on, will eventually have some of the faces of children who will attend the preschool, as well as the figure of Christ , Connie Falls said.
At this time, there will only two classes of pre-schoolers, six for a morning class and six for an afternoon class.
Connie Falls said she wanted to start small and see how her preschool grows.
“There hasn’t been a Christian pre-school here for years,” said Connie Falls, who hopes to fill that void.
The cost is $147 per month for four days a week for either the morning or afternoon program. The morning class will be from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and the afternoon from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., she said.
There will be addition fees for registration and supplies.
The schedule follows Tucumcari Public Schools school days, and the preschool will be open Monday through Thursday.
So far, Falls said she has enrolled 6 children and hopes to have the remainder enrolled when school starts on Aug. 18.
This past week, her facility was inspected and licensed by the state’s Children Youth and Family Department, she said.

Mission brings family back to roots: How the couple ended up in Tucumcari

A crusty old adobe mission is what brought Connie Falls back to her roots.

Her husband, Don, well, he works at adding a sense of adventure to their life.

On a leisurely trip about two years ago, after retiring from workday life in California, the Falls couple pulled up their fifth wheel into Tucucmari so that she could visit with family and relive a few youthful experiences.

“I grew up here for a while. My dad owned a barber shop on Second Street,” said Connie Falls, whose parents were Emmitt and Oletha Johnston Yocom.

When her dad started working for the Southern Pacific Railroad, his transfer to El Paso, Texas, eventually lead the family south.
Her grandfather, Herman Johnston, was at one time the caretaker for the Tucumcari waterworks. He lived in the Five-Mile Park caretaker’s house, west of town betwen Interstate 40 and the railroad tracks.

“He lived there some 20 years,” Connie Falls recalled.

Connie and Don Falls had sort of mapped out a retirement vista that they would discover somewhere between Austin and San Antonio, Texas.
But a painting of the old St. Michael’s Mission by Sharon Quarles in a Tucumcari gallery, led them to the mission property and the purchase.
Actually, it was Don Falls who suggested the purchase. And Connie, at first, said, “Are you crazy?”

The mission, which was dedicated in 1924 as an Episcopalian church, was by this time privately owned and had not been used for services since the 1960s, Connie Falls said.

The Episcopalian parish now holds its services in a more modern facility at 2602 S. Second St.

But the artwork by Sharon Quarles also lead them to another discovery. Quarles and her husband Doug, owned her caretaker’s house where her grandparents once lived and worked.

Connie and Don Falls sought out a tour of the home, and then some months later purchased their grandfather’s old home, when the Quarles decided to open their bed and breakfast in downtown Tucumcari.

As the Falls’ experience shows, sometimes the hometown roots run deeper than we think.