Maude Oliver Rathgeber, who has served as chairman of the New Mexico Eagle Forum in Alamogordo since 1977, has stepped down from the popular conservative group because of "health and personal" reasons.
Rathgeber lost her husband Jack, a World War II Navy fighter pilot and retired Ryan Aeronautical Co. executive, in January. She underwent heart surgery several years ago and while her heart doctor gave her a thumbs-up after two recent checkups, "I'm still feeling major problems," she said. "Additionally, my eyesight continues to diminish."
The Alamogordo icon, now in her golden years, said she is meeting with local leaders to seek a successor to handle the Forum's monthly open, nonpartisan luncheons and the annual Legislative Prayer Breakfast the group stages prior to the opening of the state Legislature.
Her search recently got under way at a private luncheon.
"We will make an announcement in due time," she said. Meanwhile, she is amply enjoying her new "free time" with her family, friends and German shepherd, Duke, at her home at the foot of Marble Canyon.
"I will, of course, continue to be available to serve the community I love, but mostly as a resource for information and whatever advice I can give," said Rathgeber, whose resume reads like a primer on public service.
In addition to her Eagle Forum work, which kept her traveling to Washington, D.C., and the group's headquarters in St. Louis on a regular basis, Rathgeber was a New Mexico delegate to the GOP national conventions that chose Ronald Reagan in Detroit (1980) and Bob Dole in San Diego (1996).
Under her leadership, Eagle Forum's Legislative Prayer Breakfast has grown from 40 attendees at its inaugural meeting in 1959 to figures hovering around 200 in recent years.
"It warms my heart to see our lawmakers meet and seek help and guidance from God, our ultimate source of wisdom," she said.
Rathgeber founded the Friends of the Library in 1959, now in its 52nd year and going strong. Over the years, she served on the local library board of directors for 18 years and as chairman of the New Mexico Library Commission for 13 years during the administrations of governors Garry Carruthers and Gary Johnson.
Other community involvements have included Toastmasters Club, 4-H Club, and she belongs to the Cuba Avenue Church of Christ.
An accomplished classical musician, Rathgeber graduated from UCLA with a double major in music and piano. She spearheaded the Community Concert Series that brought top classical performers to Alamogordo from 1950 to 2000 when the national group disbanded. She taught music in the Alamogordo Public Schools for seven years.
Rathgeber hails from a local pioneer family whose grandfather, George Bradley Oliver, arrived here at the same time the city was formally founded in 1898. The Olivers operated White Sands Ranch in southwestern Otero County until its properties were taken over by the federal government, along with other area ranches.
As a youngster, she participated in roping and barrel racing, representing the Alamogordo's Chamber of Commerce for four years, on her "gentle sorrel" Billy at the El Paso Youth Rodeo sponsored by that city's chamber of commerce.
Source: Alamogordo Daily News
Phyllis Schlafly responded to this news with the following letter to Maude Rathgeber:
Your resignation gives me a keen sense of loss. You have been such a wonderful, faithful, skillful, key Eagle for so many years, and I value your friendship, your leadership, your always-right decisions, and your devotion to our cause so very much. You have been a steady, reliable leader we could always count on, and you did everything exactly right. If our country had listened to you about the immigration issue 30 years ago, America would not be in the sad shape we are in today. It was always such a comfort to me to know that you had New Mexico in hand. And I remember with keen pleasure how Jack drove me so many miles. You were fortunate to have, as I did, a loving, supportive husband. God bless you always, Maude. Eagle Forum is so fortunate to have had a leader of your caliber and talents and loyalty all these years.
With much love, Phyllis