ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Martha Jean Alary-Hill was quiet, unassuming and efficient as she went about her business as a personal assistant to former Albuquerque Journal publisher T.H. Lang.
Lang met her when she was a paralegal for the law firm that represented the Journal in a complicated and lengthy libel lawsuit, which the newspaper won. He was so impressed with her work ethic that he hired her away from the law firm, but by that time, “she’d had enough of that lawyer stuff,” said current publisher William Lang.
Alary-Hill remained at the publishing company for the next 34 years, until her October 2017 retirement.
She died April 9 in hospice care as a result of complications from breast cancer. She was 78.
“She didn’t move around the plant very often, so people might not have seen her, but she was always there busy working,” Lang said. “She was a very loyal, longtime employee who did a great job for us for years and years. Anything Tom needed to get done, she figured out how to do it. She handled all of his administrative duties and did an amazing job for him.”
Alary-Hill stayed on at the publishing company after William Lang succeeded his brother as publisher in 2012. T.H. Lang died in 2015.
“She once told me that she started working two days after she turned 18 and has always held a job since then,” Lang said. “She was very proud of that. She was 76 when she retired from here for health reasons, but I don’t really think she wanted to. She loved to work, and I think it was her hobby and her life.”
Alary-Hill also became quite close with T.H. Lang’s children.
“Martha was such a kind, loving soul. She was loyal and committed to her work and family and always had everybody’s best interest at heart,” said Brittany Lang. “She was such a valuable asset to the Journal and Lang family, and we are forever grateful for the time we spent with her.”
Said twin sister Maggie Lang: “She always looked out for my dad. We loved her dearly.”
Alary-Hill’s son, Jeff Hill, said his mother was a descendant of one of the earliest French families that settled in the Rio Grande Valley. Her family arrived in 1879 and created a 68-acre farm, vineyard and winery in Corrales called the Alary Wine Ranch.
“After Prohibition, a big piece of the vineyard was replaced with fruit trees, but my grandfather and his brothers were bootleggers, and they continued to make wine and brandy,” Hill said.
His mother grew up on the family farm and helped to run it, “that’s where she got that great work ethic,” he said. She attended a Catholic elementary school in the town of Bernalillo and later went to St. Mary’s High School in Albuquerque. Alary-Hill did not go to college, opting instead to immediately enter the workforce.
“My mother and father divorced when I was 16,” Hill said. “My dad was a pipefitter and was out of town a lot, so for the most part my mom was a single parent of two teenage boys, and she did this while working as a paralegal. After my grandfather passed away in 1986, my mom moved back into the home in Corrales, where she grew up. She loved it out there. She loved her garden and her flowers, and she loved nature and the birds, particularly the sandhill cranes when they stopped by during the winter.”
His mother also loved dogs and had a series of spaniels over the years, naming all of them after Old West characters – Jesse, Doc, Black Jack and Billy.
Hill’s wife, Rosie Hill, said that when she married Jeff she had three young children ages 2, 5 and 8. “The youngest couldn’t say ‘Martha’ and instead said ‘Muffin,’ so all three kids from then on called their grandma Muffin.”
She also recalled that her mother-in-law was meticulous and typed her grocery lists as well as her recipe cards.
In addition to her son, Jeff, Alary-Hill is survived by another son, Gary Hill of Flower Mound, Texas, as well as five grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and numerous nephews, nieces and cousins.