January 16, 1926 - April 16, 2021
Juanita was born January 16, 1926, in Rockwall, Texas to 25-year-old John Franklin Dowell and his 17-year-old wife, Ruby. Juanita’s story began during the Great Depression when times were very rough. A couple of years later her brother, Cecil, was born. Their financial situation, like so many others, was bleak, when Ruby became pregnant with their third child, Murlyn. Times were so bad that they were given the opportunity to give their baby to another family, but of course, they did not. At the early age of three, Juanita began working, babysitting her brothers while her parents worked in the field. The Dowell family lived in several places in Texas and Louisiana. Juanita enjoyed telling this story: When she was in the first grade in Caddo Mills, Texas, there was a ditch she did not like to cross on her way to school. When the ground was muddy, her dad would put the kids on a horse and walk them to school. One day, she and a neighbor boy, Henry Lee, were on a horse trying to avoid the mud. Unfortunately, however, the horse slipped and then the two children slipped right off the horse and into the thick, stick-it-to-you Texas mud. They had to go home to get cleaned up. The Dowell family also lived in Tate Cove near Ville Platte, Louisiana. Juanita was a teenager then and this is where she met her future, Cajun husband, Louis Ortego. WWII had started. When Louis graduated from high school, he joined the US Navy, serving from January 1942 to December 9, 1945, when he was honorably discharged. After Juanita graduated from high school, she went to a nursing school, which she did not finish. During her lifetime, however, she did get extensive practical nursing experience from taking care of family members and animals. Less than a month after Louis was discharged from the Navy, in 1946, he and Juanita were married in Evangeline Parish on her birthday, January 16. The young couple moved to Lafayette, Louisiana where Louis was enrolled in college. Their plans abruptly changed when Carmen was born in 1947. They moved to Harahan, Louisiana, where Louis worked at a Western Auto store. God blessed Louis with a very special birthday present in 1952 with the birth of their daughter, Sheila. In 1957, the Ortego family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Louis became the paint chemist for a new company called Wellborn Paint Co. Around 1960, Louis purchased some property on the edge of the Sandia Mountains. Juanita designed a house which they built. The house, the additions and the yard were Mom’s pride and joy to work on for the remainder of her days. In 1967, the family had a BIG surprise: Valarie was born. Little did they know then how blessed their lives would be. Juanita and Louis were Christians serving the Lord inside and outside of the church building, wherever they regularly attended: Carrolton Church of Christ in New Orleans, Pennsylvania St. Church of Christ and Mountainside Church of Christ in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They served in every capacity available, from helping people in need, housing people for various needs, working at Bible camp, teaching, participating in church activities, and preparing and serving communion. Juanita taught children Bible classes illustrating her stories with Bible scenes she created with her small, dressed dolls. Her favorite class to teach was the third grade. She made pies every year for the Taco Hut to sell at the New Mexico State Fair for a fundraiser for the Church of Christ. She volunteered to help the cancer society transporting cancer patients without transportation to their treatments. In addition to being a Christian homemaker for her family, Juanita did so much more. Juanita had many talents. She was an extraordinary homemaker, hostess, seamstress and designer. She would object to being called a “designer.” She said she copied things she liked. She would see a pretty dress and sketch it on a piece of paper so she could make it on her treadle sewing machine. Juanita won a blue ribbon at the New Mexico State Fair for a dress she designed and sewed in a Native American print; she was featured on the news in Albuquerque wearing her dress. She started doing ceramics. She loved making, dressing and posing porcelain dolls. She also won at least one ribbon for one of her dolls. Juanita was also into construction work. She made furniture from kits, built concrete walls and walkways, a wood fence with an arched gate for the garden entrance, and a fish pond. When two installers told her she could not have a dishwasher installed where she wanted it, she installed it herself. She and Louis turned their double garage into an apartment and added a three-car garage. A number of people stayed in their apartment at different times for different reasons. Her Aunt Lois and then Juanita’s mother came to live with them. Juanita took care of them until they passed away. Even recently, blind and feeble, living in the apartment, she wanted to paint a wall and lay a couple of tiles, so she did. Juanita not only loved people and her house. She loved animals and had quite a few over the years — dogs, birds, rabbits, cats, goldfish, a monkey, a ferret and a guinea pig. At one point, in spite of city ordinances, she had some chickens. Juanita respected the laws as long as they did not interfere with her intentions. Juanita had a flower bed on every border of the yard and around the house with trees in between. She turned her mesa lot into a producing garden of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and flower trees, bushes, vines, plants and grass. Even though she was losing her eyesight, she loved working in her yard. In spite of her deteriorating health, Juanita never stopped moving, never stopped creating, and never stopped pursuing her goals. One of Juanita’s legacies to us is, “If there is a will to do something, there is a way to do it. You can do it!” Juanita was preceded in death by her husband: Louis; her parents, John Franklin and Ruby Dowell; her brother and his wife: Murlyn and Icalee Dowell; and her sister-in-law: Joyce Dowell. She is survived by her brother: Cecil Dowell; her three daughters: Carmen and her husband Jim Hudgins of Whitewright, Texas, Sheila Ortego and her husband Gary Bodman of Corrales, New Mexico, and Valarie and her husband John Jeffers of Sandia Park, New Mexico. There are five grandchildren: Jason with his wife Ksenia Hudgins, Paul with his wife Laurie Hudgins, Shannon Schreiber, Lonia and her brother Adam Jeffers. There are seven great-grandchildren: Brandon Spacer, Oliver, Joss, and Jack Hudgins, Maxim and Mila Hudgins, and Scarlett Russell. Many nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends also survive her. Graveside services will be held Friday, April 23, 2021, at Rockwall Memorial Cemetery. Due to the pandemic, this will be a private service for family members only. You are welcome to honor Juanita's life by donating to Juanita's requested charities. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions to: Albuquerque Christian Children’s Home, 5700 Winter Haven Rd NW, Albuquerque, NM 87120, 505-898-5520, or online at www.acch4kids.org, or to High Plains Children’s Home, PO Box 7448, Amarillo, TX 79114, 806-662-2272, or online at www.hpch.org.
Juanita was born January 16, 1926, in Rockwall, Texas to 25-year-old John Franklin Dowell and his 17-year-old wife, Ruby. Juanita’s story began during the Great Depression when times were very rough. A couple of years later her brother,... View Obituary & Service Information
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