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          Front Page




Dietz Name Long-Familiar in City

By Rick Nathanson
Journal Staff Writer
    The Dietz family, namesake of the North Valley neighborhood, was a presence in Albuquerque long before the first Dietz ever set foot here.
    Kerosene and fuel oil lanterns bearing the Dietz family nameplate were everywhere during Albuquerque's early years.
    In 1910, a 24-year-old Easterner, Robert Edwin Dietz II, sought relief from tuberculosis in Albuquerque's dry climate.
    He left the family business in New York City, the R.E. Dietz Co., established by his grandfather in 1840. The company was one of the nation's largest manufacturers of residential, commercial and automotive lanterns.
    According to Albuquerque attorney Linda Dietz, the lanterns were "as common as salt." Early pioneers made their way west carrying them.
    Robert Dietz II, however, found his niche working with the land. Soon after arriving in Albuquerque, friends introduced him to Barbara Johnson from St. Johns, New Brunswick, who was caring for her brother, also afflicted with TB. In 1914, she and Dietz married and bought 40 acres near Rio Grande and Griegos NW, said Linda Dietz. A modest single-story home was on the property, then known as Nassau Farm, after the family's original name, Nassau-Dietz.
    Robert and Barbara later expanded their property to about 150 acres. They maintained a herd of dairy cows, grew most of their food, produced hay and planted a fruit orchard. A second story was added to the farmhouse in 1928, giving the residence a Prairie-style profile.
    The Dietz family expanded as Robert and Barbara had four children, starting with Robert Edwin Dietz III, born in 1915.
    Robert III, like his father, became a farmer. He and his wife, Ann, had four children, daughter Gerry, Robert IV, Theodore and Ethelinda, or Linda, as she is known.
    The family initially lived in a casita on the Rio Grande property until moving into the main house in 1945, when Robert II and Barbara decided they no longer needed such a large home.
    In 1952, Robert II and Barbara moved to New York to assume management positions with the lantern company. Barbara died there in 1969 at age 79; Robert II died the following year at age 83.
    Robert III continued farming, and for 40 years was the major donor of Hampshire lambs for 4-H programs in Albuquerque. In 1959, the property was sold to developer Dale Bellamah, who subdivided it and built homes, renaming the property Dietz Farm, according to Linda Dietz.
    Robert III and Ann briefly moved into a North Valley home on Chavez Road, then settled into a home on Edith NE, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
    Robert III died in 1991 at age 75. Ann died in 2000 at age 83. Linda Dietz now lives in the historic home on Edith, while the original Dietz home on Rio Grande is owned by Shirley Leslie, who purchased it from Dale Bellamah in 1969. That home is also on the National Register of Historic Places.
    If you have a question about the city's history or a story idea, send a letter to Arts editor Rene Kimball, 7777 Jefferson Drive NE, Albuquerque, N.M. 87109 or e-mail rkimball@abqjournal.com

E-MAIL Journal Staff Writer Rick Nathanson