THE PADRE OF ISLETA
The Story of Father Anton Docher
FOREWORD TO THIS EDITION
Michael L. Keleher
Julia M. Keleher (May 30, 1894 – November 21, 1980) and Elsie Ruth Chant (June 30, 1902 – October 2, 1994) wrote The Padre of Isleta while they were with the English Department at the University of New Mexico. When the book was first published in 1940 by the Rydal Press, Santa Fe, New Mexico, I was six years old. Even so, I have vague memories of my father and Aunt Julia discussing the story of Father Anton Docher, the Catholic priest who served Isleta Pueblo for some 32 years. He arrived in Isleta December 28, 1891.
Julia was a member and Professor in the English Department from 1931 to her retirement in 1959. She never married, and lived with her sister Katherine Keleher, who taught for many years at the Albuquerque High School. They were both interesting and accomplished women, but different in a number of ways. Aunt Julia was professional, a reader and a writer. She edited each of her brother, William A. Keleher’s books. I recall him saying that others might have some criticism, even an editor or publisher, but if Julia said the book was in good form, it was acceptable to him, and no changes would be made. Katherine Keleher was athletic and energetic, played golf, and was action oriented. They were very close, made a good combination of caring aunts for their nephews, of which I was one.
Elsie Ruth Chant married Lloyd Chant a successful electrical contractor and raised two children, George Ashley Chant of Albuquerque, and Julia Jane Chant Alford of Las Cruces.
The story of Father Docher was well worth writing. But the Padre of Isleta isn’t just about him. Weaved into this book are accounts of “sun, silence and adobe,” stories of the pueblo and its people, and stories of Father Docher’s visits with Charles Fletcher Lummis and Adolph Bandelier, as well as the legend of the early Franciscan Padre Padilla whose casket mysteriously raised and created a tapping noise near the church sanctuary.