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Hummingbird Music Camp founder dies

Wanda Higgins sits at her usual seat in the dining room at Hummingbird Music Camp. She would have turned 98 in a few weeks. (Courtesy John Parish)

SANTA FE, N.M. — Wanda Higgins who with her husband shepherded thousands and thousands of campers through their Hummingbird Music Camp has died at age 97.

Higgins passed away at the iconic Jemez Mountains camp on the first day of its 60th season after a night of celebrating with music and welcoming campers. She would have turned 98 in a few weeks.

“She greeted everybody. She has a table in the corner in the dining room, and she sat there most of the day. She would nap occasionally, but everyone would wake her up and talk to her,” said daughter Teena King, who along with her siblings runs the camp. “She was in the camp photo we take Sunday evening. And then we got her up to bed and she was delighted with her Sunday.”

The next morning as she prepared for a day of camp, “her heart failed,” King said.

“EMTs came, they all had history with her. More people came to assist, because they have the history with her. People started showing up from the community,” King said. “We have so many alums and people in the community it’s just been lovely. People are stepping in and stopping by and phone calls and emails and texts and food. It’s just been lovely.”

Higgins and her husband, Kenneth Lloyd Higgins, opened the camp in 1959. After his death in 1996, Wanda Higgins directed the camp with three of their children: King, Les Higgins and Sally Chapman.

“We have all committed to carry on and keep it in the family,” King said.

Wanda Higgins and the camp recently was given the Lee Berk Award and was an honoree of the Platinum Music Awards from the New Mexico Music Commission. Her family will accept the award on her behalf in August.

A memorial service is set for Higgins for 2 p.m. July 4 at the camp and is open to alumni of the camp and community members who wish to remember Higgins.

The camp will also have a large presence in the Jemez Springs July 4 parade, which Higgins regularly participated in.

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