Estancia’s Bernadine Dial: A life of variety

In her youth, her family had a small dairy herd and it was her job to milk 10 cows every morning and evening. After she graduated from high school in 1945, Bernadine Dial, then a shy young woman, embarked on a life of variety she said she never anticipated.

The 88-year-old Dial said she came to Estancia from the southern part of Torrance County when she was in seventh grade, in 1940, and except for a few years in Socorro with her husband Ralph Dial, she has lived there ever since.

She said, as a young wife, she helped her husband run an egg business with over 200 laying hens.

Later they moved to Socorro for five years where she worked as the Baptist Church’s first secretary and did bookkeeping for her husband’s shop.

After returning to Estancia she said she went to work for the magistrate judge, a CPA who taught her to do income taxes. “Numbers have always been my thing,” she said.

She said she then learned to make ice cream treats working at the soda fountain in the town’s drug store.

Dial said Bozo Sturges stopped her one day after work and asked her if she would like to buy his school bus and dry-cleaning business, and she agreed.

She said, “That evening at dinner table I told my husband, ‘I got you a job today,’ and he said ‘Really? What did you get?’ and I said, ‘A bus and a dry-cleaning business.’ And he said ‘What!’”

School buses were contracted by the schools at that time, she said, and so her husband started driving the bus.

Dial’s husband then created the Upland Shooting Preserve with pheasant and quail. Dial said its reputation prompted a visit from actor Slim Pickens, who drew caricatures of the four children living with them at the time.

Then Dial bought her own school bus and began driving for the students of Estancia.

She ran for and was elected Torrance County Treasurer for two terms and was the first in that position to use computers.

“For many years I worked elections and was presiding judge for a long time, and I served on the Torrance County Fair Board for several years,” she said.

Dial said for 12 years she and her husband went to nursing homes where she would sing, and her husband would play guitar.

She served in various capacities with the American Legion Auxiliary since 1996 including local president, regional president and, in 2003, state president, she said. 

Bernadine Dial. Photo by Thomas Campbell.

She said she also sponsored the organization’s Boy’s State and Girl’s State programs which teaches high school juniors the workings of government by participation in a mock government.

She and her daughter, Catherine Pope, had an upholstery shop for several years as well. Dial said she has been on the board of the Bethel Storehouse and served as president for two years.

After her husband died in 2008, Dial went back to work in the treasurer’s office for 18 months.

She said over the years, she and her husband had taken in so many foster children that she had lost count. “We had three Zuni brothers who just came to us,” she added.

They also hosted four foreign exchange students from Brazil, Japan, Venezuela and Colombia. “They used to call us the international house,” Dial recalled.

She said she has one daughter, three grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.

Dial also said she is a breast cancer survivor.

“I’ve had a full life; I just thank the Lord every day for giving me another day,” Dial said. “I guess he still has something for me to do and when he gets through with me, he’ll take me home, and that’s okay. I’ve had so many blessings.” 

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