New Mexico shooting victims mourned by their children and 64 grandchildren

SANTA FE, NM (AP) — Gwendolyn Dean Schofield hoped to live to be 100, and she’s almost there.

But on May 15, in what seemed like a final act of kindness, Schofield and her daughter stopped on a residential street in the town of Farmington, in northwestern New Mexico, to help a woman who was randomly shot. hit by gunfire and died.

“I guarantee you they would have stopped in that situation 10 times out of 10,” said Dallin Dean, Schofield’s grandson.

Schofield, who grew up during the Great Depression and became a teacher during World War II, was a month away from her 98th birthday. His daughter Melodie Ivie, who ran a nursery school with the catchy name “Ivie League”, was 73. The woman they arrested to help, Shirley Voita, was a 79-year-old retired school nurse and morning Mass regular who volunteered to help people file their taxes.

Each of the women led an active professional and civic life, centered on her family and her faith, leaving indelible marks in a city of 50,000 people located near the meeting point of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and from Utah.

In total, they had 64 grandchildren.

They were laid to rest this week during two days of memorial services in a community still grieving the aftermath of a rampage by an 18-year-old on the eve of his high school graduation that left six people injured, including two police officers. Officers shot and killed the shooter.

At a joint memorial service Thursday for Schofield and Ivie, Dean looked at the crowd and told them that his aunt and grandmother would have been the first to forgive the shooter if they had survived.

Schofield began teaching in the isolated lakeside town of Valier, Montana amid a teacher shortage during World War II. There she met her first husband, Raymond Dean, a dust collector pilot. They married in 1946 and had four children.

Schofield then took on other teaching jobs, gravitating to small towns in Wyoming and Idaho before moving to Farmington to be closer to her family after the death of Raymond Dean in the 1990s. remarried but was widowed again 20 years later in 2020.

Dean said his grandmother – affectionately called “Grandma Dean” by her 26 grandchildren – was self-sufficient. She loved to garden and grow her own food and always kept a stock of canned goods.

At 97, Dean said, his grandmother remained vibrant. Relatives at the memorial service said Schofield did so by living with a “loving spirit devoid of anger and criticism” and a “forgiving heart”.

Dean said his family had already spoken about his 100th birthday party before the shooting.

Ivie followed in her mother’s footsteps as an educator. For decades, “Mrs. Ivie” welcomed hundreds of Farmington children into her home, where she led the Ivie League Preschool and prepared generations of children for kindergarten.

Neighbor Sheldon Pickering, 42, said he grew up a few houses away from the Ivie family home and was there often, playing the piano for Ivie whenever she asked to hear a song.

“She really made you feel like part of the family,” Pickering said.

When Pickering became a parent, he enrolled his daughter and son in Ivie League Preschool, where they learned to tie shoes and count, and where Ivie taught Pickering countless lessons that, according to him, have changed the way he views parenthood.

On one occasion, Pickering recalled feeling embarrassed after buying his daughter a pack of chewing gum and sending her to school, where chewing gum was banned. When Pickering apologized, saying he should have said no when his daughter asked for the candy, Ivie reassured him that a parent should say yes to the little things.

“That’s what your kids will remember,” Pickering recalled, telling Ivie. “So say yes to the little things when you can.”

Ivie and her husband, Dennis, raised their eight children in Farmington.

Later in life, the couple served as senior missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ghana and offered to support students afterward, relatives said. Ivie’s husband died last year.

Ivie and Schofield had become particularly close in recent years after Ivie moved her mother into her home, Dean said.

The morning of the shooting, they drove together to pick up one of Ivie’s grandchildren from school, Dean said. They never arrived.

Police said the shooter did not appear to be targeting anyone. Instead, he fired indiscriminately from outside his home before wandering around the neighborhood, punching into cars and homes using three different weapons. The video recently released by police included a voice authorities suspected was the shooter urging police to kill him.

On Friday, police released a new trove of body and dashcam videos that paint a stark picture of the shooting. Authorities also provided audio recordings of hundreds of frantic calls to emergency dispatchers by witnesses to the rampage and its aftermath, including a call from one of Voita’s daughters.

Voita, who was hit by gunfire while in her car, started the day with morning mass at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, part of a routine involving deep commitment to faith and community service, said friends and acquaintances.

Her memorial service was held at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, of which she had been a member for nearly 50 years. Relatives of Ivie and Schofield were among those who gathered to remember her.

Voita and her 57-year-old husband had five children, including the current San Juan County elected tax assessor, 14 grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.

Mary Johnson, a friend of Voita for 25 years through community service events and prayer groups, said Voita “did everything she could to help people”.

This included volunteering at a senior center to help residents file their taxes and participating in anti-abortion marches. She also enjoyed skiing, tennis, pickleball, and trips to Lake Vallecito in Colorado.

Voita spoke with ease about mortality and redemption, Johnson said.

“She always expressed her love for Jesus and how we all have to be ready, all the time, so you never know when our time is coming,” Johnson said.


Yamat reported from Las Vegas.

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