By Kevin Wilson
Portales said its collective farewell Friday to Odis and Doris Newman.
The Newmans loved to eat breakfast at McDonald’s with a group of friends six times a week, and they loved to play marbles and dominoes at the Senior Citizens Center. But most of the funeral service was dedicated to their impact on the community — and their love of fishing.
Before the service started, a crowd of about 400 that packed the Third and Kilgore Church of Christ heard “I’m Gonna Miss Her,” Brad Paisley’s tongue-in-cheek song about a man who is forced to choose between his wife and fishing.
“We knew them well enough to know that song was true,” said Scott Reeves, “except she liked to fish as much as he did.”
Odis Newman, 70, and Doris Newman, 69, were found dead in the trunk of their burned car on March 3 southeast of Portales. Four suspects have been arrested in connection with their deaths.
Reeves, the director of Wheeler Mortuary in Portales, officiated the services along with Tony Reynolds, pastor of Arch Baptist Church. Reeves told those in attendance that he was speaking as a friend.
“Everybody just became family,” Reeves said. “It didn’t matter if you were their children, their grandchildren, their great-grandchildren, their brother or sister or niece or nephew or parent, or a friend or a friend of a friend.
“That’s why I’m up here today. (My wife) and I were friends of (family members), so we became family to Odis and Doris. They had a way of making you feel comfortable; they never made you feel like you didn’t belong there.”
Odis Newman was born in 1934 in Oklahoma, and Doris was born a year later in a house in Portales. Doris was one of two twin girls and she had two other sisters.
“The family said that Doris didn’t like to date one guy very much,” Reeves said. “She always tagged along with her sister, so she could dance with whoever she wanted to. But there was one fellow who seemed to catch her eye and she caught his.”
Odis and Doris were married in 1953 in Portales. Odis was working with a telephone company at the time and was transferred to Farmington. Four years later, they returned and Odis established Valley Electric with his father.
“They worked hard, did quality work, treated customers well, made sure they were all satisfied — and sadly undercharged,” Reeves said. “David Sanders said they would work all day on something and charge you two bucks.”
Business stayed consistent for the Newmans, and Valley Electric is still in operation. The Newmans sold the business to Stanley Dixon, their son-in-law, in 1996 and began a busy retirement with fishing trips, breakfast fellowship and domino games.
It was at the Senior Center that a small fault was found with the Newmans: They were very competitive, Reeves said, and might stop playing against you should you ever beat them.
One thing they never stopped doing, though, was fishing.
“Fishing was no small part of their lives,” Reeves said. “They knew Conchas (Lake) like the back of their hands. Odis was the kind of fisher that when he hit the lake, others took notice.”
Reeves shared a story about how Odis brought a teenager along for a trip, and the teenager caught three walleyes. Odis told him they were carp, and the teen never knew he’d been had until he saw a walleye mounted at Valley Electric.
Pastor Reynolds said the Newmans were “good, good people.”
He said they obeyed Christian principles, most notably overcoming evil with good. Reynolds said he hoped Portales would not be overcome by evil he said was perpetrated on the Newmans.
“We can become so isolated because of the evil in our world that we can not know who our neighbors are,” Reynolds said. “Then we would live in a community that simply wouldn’t take the time to help that stranded motorist on the roads and highway, to extend to strangers we’d never met a kind word.
“Odis and Doris, they had no problem extending goodness to everyone they met. Obviously, if you look around you, the sanctuary is full this afternoon.”
The Newmans were brought to Portales Cemetery in one casket, which Reeves thought was fitting.
“I don’t know if one of them could have survived if they had seen what had happened,” Reeves said, “or if they’d have to hear about it later.”