Friday, 15 November 2013 16:31

Willie and June Ortiz, La Tertulia Restaurant

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June and Willie Ortiz met the middle of May in 1947. June had come from Nashville, Tennessee to work the telephone lines for the Bell Telephone system because there was a strike. She met an FBI agent and he asked her to go on a date which she agreed to do. Willie would be the extra on the date as they traveled to Albuquerque. Six weeks later they were married. June always told the story that her wedding was more like a wake because she wasn’t Hispanic and the Ortiz family was very somber about this new person coming into the family. Cultural expectations!!

June and Willie moved to Los Alamos and their daughter, Joy, was born in 1948. They moved back to Santa Fe in 1953 and continued commuting to Los Alamos for work. Willie continued to work in Los Alamos until 1972. June however stopped working in Los Alamos in 1954 and began a secretarial job at St. Michael’s College which later became the College of Santa Fe. Joy married in 1970 and had three children that were the apples of their grandparents eyes. Kevin, Dawn and Christopher Nashan.

In the early 1970’s June and Willie Ortiz faced what most people in their mid-life; what do we want to do with the rest of our lives. They chose to open a restaurant called La Tertulia at 416 Agua Fria. June named it La Tertulia because in Spanish that means the meeting place and she wanted the restaurant to be a fine dining Native New Mexican restaurant where locals could dine with their families. Lace tablecloths and red napkins would adorn the tables and the wait staff would wear tuxedo shirts that gave the patrons a feeling of dining in a lovely hacienda. The restaurant wasn’t what they originally thought they would do as a business they wanted to showcase local artisans and their crafts. Their vision was a little too soon and they had difficulty getting the artisans to produce. They kept the Mercado open in the old Guadalupe elementary school building but it struggled and eventually closed.

The restaurant on the other hand was a huge success for locals and tourists alike. Willie managed the kitchen and June was the greeter and tax master in the dining room. Famous people and non-famous were all treated the same. Two wonderful Santa Feans brought a business to the community that all would cherish and love and savor the memories of days gone by. In 1990 June died and the restaurant struggled until it closed in 2000.

June and Willie’s grandchildren have stayed in the food service field and are very successful in their respective positions. Kevin is an acclaimed chef and owns a restaurant in St. Louis, MO called Sidney Street Café. He has been nominated for the James Beard award multiple times and his restaurant has achieved the Best of St. Louis award for restaurants. Kevin is married to Mina Nashan and has two boys, Max and Miles. Dawn is the General Manager of the Washington State Convention Center and is the mother of a daughter and son, Gabriella and Gregory. Dawn’s manages 540 people on a daily basis and took her center to a “Green Facility”. Dawn is married to Darwin Wheeler. Christopher is Kevin’s General Manager of his restaurant and is single.

Information provided by daughter, Joy Ortiz-Zimmer

Voces de Santa Fe is honored to tell the story of two beloved Santa Feans, Willie and June Ortiz.

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Thank you from the Voces community: Telling our history in our own voices.

Read 9896 times Last modified on Friday, 15 November 2013 17:22
Maria Montez-Skolnik


Both sides of my family trace their roots in the Santa Fé area to the 1600s.  In the earlier years they were primarily farmers, builders, craftsmen, artists (wood carvers and weavers), and educators.  I graduated from SFHS & NMSU and received my BA & MA in Speech & Language Pathology. I divide my time between Santa Fé and the San Francisco Bay Area.  


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