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Melba Love Hamby Watson, 1940–2023

Wednesday, February 1, 2023
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ABILENE—Melba Love Hamby Watson was called home by her Lord and Savior on Saturday, January 28, 2023, surrounded by family. Services will be held on Friday, February 3, 2023. Viewing and visitation for family and friends will be held 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon (CST) at Girdner Funeral Home, 141 Elm Street, Abilene, Texas. Graveside Service, officiated by Pastor Toby Henson,will follow at 2:00 p.m. (CST) at Texas State Veterans Cemetery at Abilene, 7457 W. Lake Road, Abilene, Texas (please arrive at 1:45 p.m.).

Melba Ray Love was born on August 1, 1940 in Spur, Texas, to Herbert and Donnie Garrison Love. As a youngster, a sweet kid by the name of Curtis Watson “claimed” Melba as his girlfriend and, together, they became each other’s first sweetheart, first kiss, first love. But as luck would have it, the Love family departed Spur and moved to Lovington, New Mexico, in 1953 to open and operate Love Boot Shop.

Melba graduated from Lovington High School in 1958 and moved to Lubbock, Texas, where she met and married her first husband, Richard Hamby, while he was attending and later graduated from Texas Tech University. From this union, two children, Perri Kathleen and Clinton Ward, were born. The family made their home in Socorro, New Mexico, where Melba owned a furniture upholstery business and worked alongside her family in their farming and ranching business. Melba was a member of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, where she taught Sunday School and played the organ for church services. She was also a member of the Socorro Bowling League and volunteer for the Socorro County Fair, the Sacaton CowBelles, the Maverick 4-H Club, and the Socorro Cowboy Polo Club. Being the daughter of boot makers that designed, built, and finished every pair of custom boots by hand, Melba was a talented seamstress, creating, alongside Norma Sparks, all the dance costumes for Sue Cottom’s School of Dance.

In 1978, Melba returned to Lovington to help with the Love family business and became Congressional secretary for U.S. Congressman Harold Runnels, in his New Mexico 2nd district office in Lea County, until his death in 1980. Additional career opportunities included executive cirector for the Lovington Chamber of Commerce, business manager for Runnels Mud Company, foreclosure specialist for Moncor Bank, Lea County tax assessor (the only assessor to hold the office for 12 consecutive

years), special assessments agent for the City of Albuquerque, secretary for Lea County Soil & Water Conservation, and Lea County probate judge until her final, of many retirements, in 2014. Melba was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Lovington and a bell ringer in the bell choir. She was a volunteer for the Lea County Junior Livestock Sale, the Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame,the Lea County Museum, and the Lea County Federation of Republican Women.

Even though Melba and Curtis’ lives that started back in Spur, Texas, had taken different paths over 65-plus years, God would lead those youngsters back together to be each other’s last sweetheart, last kiss, last love. On November 13, 2021, Melba and Curtis Watson were married and made their home in Clyde, Texas. They treasured their time together and enjoyed traveling around New Mexico and Texas.

Melba is survived by her adoring husband, Curtis Watson; daughter Perri (Randy) Jennings and son Clint (Tonya) Hamby; and daughter by marriage Crystal (Brad) Greer and son by marriage Caleb Watson. Also surviving her are grandchildren Angela (Michael) Miller, Melody Vice, Jordan (Carrilee) Jennings, Taylor Hamby and Caitlyne (Clayton) Kibbe; great-grandchildren Ashton and Rylan Miller, Conner and Mercedes Vice, Kasia, Katelin and Jasiah Jennings, and Haisley and Leddy Hamby, along with many Love cousins, nieces and nephews and a host of many friends whom she cherished.

Melba is preceded in death by her parents, her siblings Neil Love, Janet Byrd, Gail Painter, Jerry “Butch” Love, and her nephew Mark Love.

Melba never met a stranger because she believed that everyone she crossed paths with she should become acquainted with as they might know something she needed to know and vice versa. She was a voracious reader of the Bible and enjoyed mystery and romance novels. Her one-of-a-kind wit and storytelling impacted everyone who knew and loved her.

Services are entrusted to Girdner Funeral Home, Abilene, Texas.

The family requests memorials be made to the Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame, 1 Thunderbird Circle, Hobbs, NM 88240, in lieu of flowers.