August 2012

Saying goodbye to Connie

We at the Free Press were stunned to learn that Connie Gotsch, one of the Four Corners’ premier arts and entertainment reporters and one of our own contributors, had died July 15 at the age of 64.

Connie, who lived in Farmington, N.M., started writing for us in 2005. We communicated primarily by e-mail, though sometimes by phone. Connie was an editor’s dream: smart, knowledgeable, and self-motivated. Every month she came up with her own idea for an arts article and invariably delivered it well ahead of deadline, complete with photos. Her contributions to our publication were invaluable to us, but she was better-known in other realms.

She worked for 20 years as director of KSJE Public Radio in Farmington, quitting only when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2011. She loved the arts and did a classical radio show called “Roving With the Arts” as well as numerous interviews with Four Corners-area writers, musicians, and artists of all types.

Somehow she found time to write fiction as well. Her first novel was “A Mouth Full of Shell,” a look at university politics and intrigue, published by DLSIJ Press in 2001. That was followed by “Snap Me a Future,” a print-on-demand novel about a former investigative reporter who uncovers looting at Anasazi sites.

“A Mouth Full of Shell” took first place for fulllength novel in the 2001 New Mexico Press Women Communication Contest. “Snap Me a Future” garnered a second-place award in same category in 2005.

But Connie really hit her stride when she decided to write a book about an abused dog that finds a loving home – written from the dog’s point of view.

Published in 2009 by Artemesia in Albuquerque, with illustrations by nationally known artist John Colgan of New Mexico, “Belle’s Star” received a silver award for Juvenile Fiction Level II (ages 9-12) from the Mom’s Choice Awards®, which recognize familyfriendly media, products and services. The book was also a finalist in the 2009 New Mexico Book Awards for the Juvenile Book category. It became popular as a way for children to understand abuse and express their feelings about it. A retired Farmington elementaryschool counselor, Margaret Cheasebro, even designed an activities booklet for “Belle” to help elementaryschool students understand and deal with abuse by talking about Belle’s experiences.

Connie went on to write “Belle’s Trial” and, according to an obituary in the Farmington Daily Times, completed final editing on a third book in the series, “Belle’s Challenge,” just before her death. She told me once that she knew her novels would never make her rich, but that she had found her niche with “Belle.”

She was upbeat and un-self-pitying in her communications following her diagnosis. She said she had a form of cancer that was “highly treatable” and expected to make a full recovery, but that she had to take a hiatus from writing for us. In May, she emailed us, “Improvement continues. We have a first place in special articles (arts) for articles I wrote for you last year. I am itching to do some serious writing. Can we think of an assignment where I could contact and interview someone by email?” But she was never able to finish another article for us.

Connie had received a slew of writing and other media awards, including honors from both the New Mexico Press Association and the Society of Professional Journalists for her articles in the Free Press. In 2007, she was honored with the 2007 Communicator of Achievement Award from the New Mexico Press Women, the highest honor given by that organization.

Fittingly, the Connie Gotsch Arts Foundation is being launched in her memory, so she can continue to help artists of all sorts.

After her death, her Facebook page was filled with tributes from her many, many friends. It’s clear that her passing was the departure of not only a unique talent but someone who was greatly loved.