On this last day of 2020 we reflect on this challenging year and want to pay special acknowledgment of the passing of an important person in our lives.
It is with great sorrow that we inform you about the loss of Emma Bessi Baldwin-Yazzie, Melanie Yazzie’s mother, our long time friend. (Really, a part of our extended family.) Unfortunately, she passed away because of Covid-19 recently in Gallup, New Mexico.
She dedicated her life to her family and was a well-known schoolteacher on the Navajo Reservation. After reaching the time most would retire from teaching, she never considered it. We asked her about her choice to continue teaching and she said "I want to be there for these kids."
Born in Wide Ruins, Arizona, she graduated from Northern Arizona University and later married Albert Yazzie. (deceased in 2016) They both spent their lives as well-respected community leaders and teachers.
The Yazzies had a love of travel and adventure and took their three children all over the United States, enjoying meeting new people and seeing new sights. They had a particular love for animals and visited many zoos in this country—one time traveling by car to Washington, D.C to see the new panda at the National Zoo. Their later travels took them to Japan, Europe, Canada, and Mexico. Melanie, through her connections, invited us, with her parents to go with her for a month-long trip to New Zealand for a special Maori art gathering. It was a celebration of the Millenium and was such a memorable trip. Glenn and Albert had us all laughing as a Maori friend dressed them in traditional clothing and gave them instructions in doing the “haka” dance. Bessi visited France recently to see the Tour de France that she had always seen before on television.
We have fond memories of Albert, Bessi, and her parents, Thelma and Tom Baldwin. Thelma was an exceptional Navajo weaver and told Melanie that she was also a weaver with her paintings and prints. Bessi created jewelry and she and Albert encouraged Melanie in pursuit of her art career. Melanie is continuing her family’s legacy, upholding her Navajo (Dine) culture, by being an educator and by making important art.
Thelma Baldwin only spoke Navajo. When her children were born the nurses at the hospital selected the name Bessi for Melanie's mother. Toward the end of her life Bessi preferred to be called Emma, the name her mother had actually chosen for her.
She had been a strong, inspirational friend and we will miss the visits and laughter we shared with her.
Should you wish to send a note to Melanie regarding her mother, please address it to:
Melanie Yazzie c/o
Glenn Green Galleries
PO Box 1000
Tesuque, New Mexico 87574 (We will deliver them to her.)