By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico
Alva Carter was remembered as a dairyman, a business owner, and an educator. But family members and associates also honored him Monday as a family man, friend to the community and devout Christian.
Nearly 700 people filled the floor of Greyhound Arena on Monday afternoon to pay respects to Carter, president of the Eastern New Mexico Board of regents, who died Thursday morning in a one-vehicle accident on New Mexico Highway 202 while on the way to a dairy he owned in Texas.
“Dad died doing what he did best,” said his son, Alva Carter Jr. “He left early, and he was on his way to work.”
Carter, 68, grew up in San Jon and spent most of the last four decades in the Portales area as a college student, teacher, administrator or business owner.
“There couldn’t be, in his opinion, a better place to live and raise his family,” said his other son, Alan Carter.
And whatever Carter did, whether it was teaching junior high students in 1971, opening his first dairy in 1994 or entering the auto sales business in 2000, family members said he did it right the first time so he didn’t need to waste time doing it again.
“My dad was my hero,” Alan said. “From a very early age, he instilled in me a work ethic and pride in a job well done.”
Bob Carter said his brother was a hero for other reasons. In 1952, Bob said, he filled a trash barrel with kerosene and old magazines to watch it burn. He still has burn marks over one-third of his body from the explosion, but Bob said he would have died had his older brother not rolled him on the ground to extinguish him.
“I know without him being there, I wouldn’t be here,” Bob said.
Steven Gamble, ENMU president, remembered “President Carter” as his boss and a regent with invaluable access to Gov. Bill Richardson. Carter, Gamble said, affectionately referred to the students as “kiddos” and always looked out for their interests.
“He was always a tough sell when it came to raising tuition and fees,” Gamble said. “He wanted to know exactly how that money was going to be spent. If we didn’t have a good answer, we weren’t going to get it.”
That toughness also extended to family from time to time, according to Alva Carter Jr.
As a high school junior, Alva Jr. said he took his truck and performed “the perfect donut” on a just-poured parking lot. His father witnessed it, and seconds later the entire student body was witness to a high school junior being pulled out of his truck and beaten with his father’s belt.
“I tell you that story,” he said, to remind everyone his father made an example of his family, good or bad. “It’s not for my dignity, that’s for sure. Social services can’t do anything now.”
Though he got into the dairy business late in life, Dairy Farmers of America Chief Operating Officer David Jones said Carter was successful because he thought outside of the box and never called in a complaint without also bringing a solution to the table.
“He had more ideas than anyone I’ve ever encountered,” Jones said, “and even though some of them didn’t work, quite a few of them were right on the mark.”
Alva Carter’s proudest moments, family members said, came in leading his grandchildren to the Lord and giving back to his friends and neighbors.
“Everything he did was family first,” Alva Jr. said, “but guess what? You were his family also.”