SANTA FE, N.M. — Former state District Court Judge Ernesto J. Romero was being remembered as a man who loved the law, loved his family and loved to work with his hands on his 20-acre East Mountain property.
Romero died early July 26 while in hospice care and after a long illness. He was 67.
Romero served as a 2nd Judicial District judge from 2002 until his retirement in 2009, first in the family law division and then the criminal division, said his sister, Sharon Lautenschleger.
After he retired, he loved spending time on his property in Sandia Park, where he built several rental houses and tended to the land. He also worked in his woodshop creating jewelry boxes, tables, wood carvings and more, she said.
“He would make these beautiful things and then give them away,” Lautenschleger said. “He never put them on display or sold them, he just gave them away.”
Romero was born in Santa Fe to Macedonia and Julian Romero. He was the eldest of five children and the only boy. The family moved to Albuquerque in about 1950, Lautenschleger said.
Romero graduated from Sandia High School in 1967, the University of New Mexico in 1968 and the University of Minnesota law school in 1971.
Active with the ROTC through high school and college, Romero was made a lieutenant in the Air Force upon graduation from UNM and then promoted to captain after graduating law school. He served with the Air Force office of the Judge Advocate General, or JAG office, until 1974, which included a stint in Turkey.
After leaving the Air Force, Romero returned to New Mexico and served with the Army National Guard Reserves even as he practiced law, first as an attorney with the state Attorney General’s Office and then after he went into private practice in Albuquerque. He specialized in civil litigation and was board-certified in family law before putting on his judge’s robe.
According to son Josh, a partner in an Austin, Texas, law firm, his father was born and raised Catholic, but later became active with the Alameda Baptist Church and led men’s Bible study groups.
“My father was one of the most giving souls,” said Josh. “He couldn’t pass a homeless person on the street without helping them out. If they were hungry, he’d take them to the nearest restaurant and buy them a meal. If they were looking for work, he’d find jobs for them on his Sandia Park property, where they’d work on buildings or attend to the landscaping and vegetation.”
He also said his father was “extremely hard working and led by example.” Consequently, both Josh and brother Sean “followed in our father’s footsteps, and he emotionally and financially supported our dreams to also become lawyers.”
Sean Romero, a lawyer in Chicago, called his father “my role model and the reason I went into law.” His father “would put in endless hours to fight on behalf of his clients,” he said, but when he wasn’t practicing law, “he loved outdoor manual labor – he wasn’t one to sit in front of the television.”
Ernesto Romero is survived by his mother, Macedonia Romero; wife, Dana Hines-Romero, and a former wife, Sherry McClung, the mother of Josh and Sean; stepson Jean-Paul Hines; sisters Jo Anne Romero-Goodnow and husband David, Sharon Lautenschleger and husband Steve, Phyllis Zamorski and husband Mike, and Marlene Romero, all of Albuquerque; grandchildren Mia and Carter of Austin, Texas, as well as many nephews and nieces.
He was preceded in death by his father Julian and his daughter Meghan.
A rosary will be held Sunday at 7 p.m. at French’s Mortuary, 7121 Wyoming NE, and a funeral Mass will be held Monday at 7 p.m. at Our Lady of the Assumption Church, 811 Guaymas Place NE. Burial will be held at the Santa Fe National Cemetery, 501 N Guadalupe St. in Santa Fe, at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday.