Henry Pick was 4 years old when his father was murdered.
"It's one of New Mexico's oldest unsolved murders," he said. "My father, Henry Pick Sr., owned two general stores one in Glorieta and the other in Tererro. In 1934, he was taking cash to the store in Tererro and stopped his car, probably for someone that he knew, and was shot in the head and was robbed. He had a young worker with him and before they shot him, he pushed the young man into the river so that he wouldn't get hurt. Every so often, an article will appear in the newspaper but to this day, no one has come forward with any new information."
Pick's father, along with his three brothers Emil, Leo and Marcel, emigrated from Austria and settled in New Mexico in the late 1920s. While Henry Pick Sr. operated two stores, his brother Leo ran another store in Lamy that was once the Legal Tender Restaurant and is now a museum.
After the death of his father. Pick's mother, Elizabeth Schultz, who came from Boehm, Germany, married Emil Pick. According to Pick, the tradition of a man marrying his brother's widow was common in old European cultures. Emil and his wife had one son, Sam Pick, who served two terms as the mayor of Santa Fe from 1975 through 1986.
Emil Pick adopted his young nephew Henry and the family worked hard to establish themselves as New Mexico merchants. After being proprietors of several mercantile stores, the Pick family went into the dry-cleaning and laundry business and purchased the White Swan Laundry in Santa Fe in 1936.
Henry Pick Jr. attended public schools in Santa Fe through the 10th grade. During his junior year, he was sent to study in Roswell at the New Mexico Military Institute, where he graduated and is a member of the institute's Hall of Fame. The New Mexico Military Institute also ran a four-year college from 1950 through 1957. Pick, now 80, received his bachelor's degree in science and business there. During the Korean War, Pick was a second lieutenant in the Army and was stationed at Fort Knox and Camp Pickett in Virginia. After the war, he joined the New Mexico National Guard and was trained in anti-aircraft artillery.
Henry and Sam bought the White Swan Laundry business from their mother and uncle Marcel. Emil Pick died in 1965. For the next 20 years, the two employed more than 90 employees who provided both retail and industrial cleaning services throughout Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico. As the company grew, Pick began work programs that included inmates at the Santa Fe Penitentiary and families on welfare.
"Back in 1952, I helped to start the Rotary Youth Leadership Boys Camp and a few years later we added a girls camp as well. When I ran the White Swan Laundry, I realized that the opportunities that we had given to these young children could also empower people in prison and on welfare if we would just give them the opportunity to be a productive part of society," Pick said. "That leadership model for the youth camps, which is still in operation and has benefited close to 5,000 youths, also worked for our employees."
Henry Pick bought out his brother Sam in 1984, and continued to run the laundry for four more years. He sold the business in 1988 but Sam and Henry continue to lease the property, mainly to the film industry.
"We've had several movie companies lease the building for their staff while filming in New Mexico, including Crazy Horse — the 2010 movie that Jeff Bridges received an Academy Award for best actor," he said.
As a retiree, Pick continues to be an active member of Rotary International, of which he has been a member for the past 32 years. Through his tenure, he has served as the organization's president and district governor for New Mexico and west Texas. He has also represented the organization in the U.S. as a speaker and organizer.
Pick's wife of 58 years, Peggy Whitehead, their two children, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren understand how important Pick's commitment to the Rotary Club is and participate in all of his activities. He has received numerous awards for his Rotary work, but the one that he received in 2010 is truly appreciated: "The Rotary Club's F.U.N. award is given each year to one of its members as being a Fabulous Unserious Nutcase."
Ana Pacheco's weekly tribute to our community elders appears every Sunday. She can be reached at 505-474-2800.