Cover photo for Ward Alan Minge's Obituary
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Ward Alan Minge

March 20, 1924 — May 6, 2021

Ward Alan Minge

Ward Alan Minge, Ph.D, age 97, passed away at his home in Waterville, on Thursday, May 6, 2021. 

Alan was born in the Afton community of rural Marshall County, Kansas, to Martin and Julia (Frohberg) Minge.

He was baptized and confirmed at Trinity Lutheran Church at Afton. 

He attended one room country schools through the eighth grade. At age 14 his family moved to Denver, Colorado, where he graduated from East High School in 1942. 

He served as a Medical Corpsman in the US Navy during the final days of WWII and the early occupation of Japan after the war. After discharged, he returned to Denver where he graduated from the University of Denver with a BA in History and a Phi Beta Kapa key. Upon graduation he began to explore both Old and New Mexico, beginning a lifelong study of its peoples and cultures. In 1951 he earned a MA in History from Universidad de las Americas in Mexico City, Mexico, and in 1965 a Ph.D. in History and Anthropology from the University of New Mexico. Dr. Minge was one of the premier figures in the preservation of the history and culture of the Southwest. He is probably best known as the creator, with his wife Shirley, of the Albuquerque Museum’s Casa San Ysidro in Corrales, and as the co-founder of the New Mexico State Records Center and Archives in Santa Fe. He served that institution as its longtime chairman through its first two decades. 

During his first year as a graduate student at the University of New Mexico, he met fellow graduate student, Shirley Jolly and they were married in 1952; she passed away in 2004. 

In 1954 the couple purchased what was then known as the Gutiérrez House. Originally only four rooms were habitable, but over the next forty-five years the couple painstakingly rebuilt or restored the home and outbuildings. In 1997, Alan and Shirley donated the property to the Albuquerque Museum and it is open to the public. When he first began his doctoral studies in the University of New Mexico’s History Department, Minge found New Mexico’s colonial, territorial, and state records held in Santa Fe in often deplorable and chaotic conditions scattered around Santa Fe. Working with experienced records’ administrator Joe Halpin and historian-colleague Myra Ellen Jenkins and enlisting the support of sympathetic legislators, Minge organized and led a campaign to establish a state archive. He personally wrote the draft legislation resulting in the 1959 Public Records Act establishing the state’s Commission of Public Records and the New Mexico State Records Center and Archive.

In 1953 Dr. Minge also began a thirty year career as a Historian for Kirtland Air Force Base where he wrote thousands of pages of historical reports chronicling the research activities of the Air Force Special Weapons Center and the Air Force Weapons Laboratory. After only a brief time in New Mexico, Alan became a special friend and researcher/advocate for the state’s Native American people. He worked as a contract historian for many of the New Mexico Indian peoples, writing hundreds of pages of expert witness reports in support of their historical land and water rights and frequently gave depositions and testified as an expert witness in court where needed.  His connection with the Acoma Pueblo was especially close, and in 1976 he wrote “Acoma: Pueblo in the Sky” (revised edition, 1991 and 2002) with the official support and assistance of the tribe. In 1998 at age 74, Alan returned to his native Marshall County, Kansas, where he purchased a Queen Ann style home in Waterville and repeated the task of painstaking restoration. Upon completing the tedious process of removing many single layers of paint inside the home he revealed a treasure of hand painted frescos, canvas and plaster ceilings.   

Over the seven decades of his scholarly career, Dr. Minge produced a broad range of scholarly contributions, focusing on better and deeper understanding of the history and culture of the American Southwest and its peoples. His work included books, journal articles, conference papers, federal and state court reports and depositions, and personal memoirs. He was often honored for his service. The U.S. Secretary of the Air Force nominated him in 1981 for the prestigious Rockefeller Public Service award created to honor outstanding public service within the federal civil service. Both the State of New Mexico and the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce celebrated him with their Distinguished Public Service Awards in 1969, and the New Mexico Endowment for the Humanities in 1994 named him its special honoree for “outstanding contributions to the humanities.” His portrait hangs on the walls of the State Archives he did so much to create. 

Alan was a member of the Afton Trinity Lutheran Church, the Blue Rapids Rotary Club and the Waterville Lions Club. 

Preceding Alan in death were his parents, his wife Shirley, and three sisters: LaVonne Minge, Shirley Flieder and Donna Robinson. 

Survivors include his five nieces and nephews: Mary Ann Bessom, Charlene Kloverstrom, Fred Robinson, George Robinson and Charles Robinson. 

Funeral services are planned for 11:00 am, Monday, May 17, 2021, at Afton Trinity Lutheran Church, north of Waterville, officiated by Deacon Don Dodd. Music is to include prelude recordings of classical music and congregational hymns of “The Old Rugged Cross” and “How Great Thou Art.” Jan Beck is to sing “Amazing Grace.” The Musician is Beverly Hedke. Casket Bearers are Fred Robinson, George Robinson, Charles Robinson, Gary Genschorck, Auddie Pino and Kevin Johannes. Burial will follow at the Afton Trinity Lutheran Church Cemetery. 

Memorials are suggested to either the Casa San Ysidro in Corrales, New Mexico, or the Afton Trinity Lutheran Church and may be sent in care of Terry-Christie Funeral Home at PO Box 61, Waterville, Kansas 66548.

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