A glimpse into the large life of one small Naomi Baughman – part 1
BY KRISTINE SANDRICK
Living in Las Cruces gave me the opportunity to meet many interesting people. One in particular was Naomi Baughman. She kept her long, silver hair swept up in a soft twist, and dressed in classic, tailored attire and gorgeous jewelry. Used a cane to support her slight frame. She seemed glamorous, yet shy and enigmatic. At 90-something she witnessed so much in her lifetime. Yet, when I asked her, she seemed to keep “the good stuff” to herself.
I learned she worked in London during World War II, had lived all over the country and traveled extensively. When we sat down for an interview in May 2011, she had just turned 97.
“My name is Virginia Naomi Curtis Hill Lincoln Brown Baughman,” she said as she began to talk about a life that spanned nearly a century.
She spoke haltingly, even wincing at times as though sorting through a dusty vault of filed memories. The way she did or didn’t or couldn’t answer questions made me wish she’d kept a diary. Throughout her career, she prided herself on finding “the facts” through numbers, but now the facts elude her. She’s sharp for 97, but she … just … can’t … recall …
During her life, she suffered many disappointments including being separated from her siblings at a young age, her parents’ divorce and then two of her own. But “disappointments” is my word. She might have chuckled once or twice during the interview but otherwise showed very little emotion.
Naomi poses in her un-Western garb during the Klamath Falls Rodeo Queen contest, circa 1934.
Risque? “No way.”
She was born to Florence May Curtis and Clifton Roy Hill, May 10, 1914 in Philadelphia. Her sister Marian was 5 years older; Clifton was their younger brother.
When she was 4, the family boarded a train from Philadelphia to Reno, Nevada – 2,600-some-miles – where Mr. Hill, as she called him, took a job as a civil engineer and also taught at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Mackay School of Mines.
“My earliest memory … hmmm. Well, Marian was going to do a balloon dance,” she said. (I mentioned it sounded risqué. She ignored the comment.) Continue reading