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County historian not history

Longtime Clovis historian Don McAlavy has left the dusty plains of eastern New Mexico for the tropical shorelines of St. Petersburg, Fla. But McAlavy insists his days of recording Curry County history are not yet history.

McAlavy and his wife, Katherine, recently sold their home on the Pleasant Hill Highway and quietly moved to Florida on July 30 to be close to family. They have no immediate plans of returning to Clovis. However, McAlavy said he does plan to come to Clovis when the city celebrates its 100th birthday in 2007 and he also said he’ll come back permanently when he is buried in or around Clovis.

McAlavy said he decided to move to Florida after his wife’s father, Ridge Whiteman, died a year ago. She had no family left in Clovis and McAlavy said their children and grandchildren in Florida wanted them to be a family again.

“One day I told my wife, if she moved to Florida I’d follow the cook!” McAlavy said.

His departure will be felt in Clovis, said Russell Muffley, a friend who’s known McAlavy for 25 years.

“Without a doubt, Don McAlavy was the local authority on history that people turned to,” Muffley said. “He’s an asset and it’s a loss for the community for him to move away.”

McAlavy has been writing a history column for the Clovis News Journal. He plans to continue writing the column. He also plans to continue to work on some Curry County historical projects and complete a book on area music history.

McAlavy, 72, was born in 1931 in Clovis and has been considered a local historian since at least 1972, when he was placed on a committee by former District Judge Reuben Nieves.

The committee was charged with celebrating New Mexico’s 60th anniversary.

“I told the committee that one idea would be to publish a booklet on 1912 statehood days and how Clovis celebrated the event back then. The judge said, ‘Do it Don. You’re the printer!’”

After that, McAlavy founded the High Plains Historical Foundation. He then started interviewing old timers who were in the area in 1912 and, from their recollections, published a booklet called “1912 Statehood Days.” Within eight years, the group had published two volumes of area history.

McAlavy, who for 46 years co-owned City Printing in Clovis, said he has not taken all of the Curry County historical records with him. He said many are already at Clovis-Carver Public Library, while others are in a storage unit and will be sorted and eventually placed in the library.

“It is an honor for me to be considered a Clovis historian, but nearly everybody is a historian in the general sense of the word. Many in Clovis know a lot about its history. The sad thing is they don’t write it down,” McAlavy said.

McAlavy said other local residents can also be considered trusted historians, including Harold A. Kilmer, current president of the High Plains Historical Foundation, and Wilma Fulgham.