Robert J. Nordhaus, lawyer, ski pioneer and lifelong New Mexico resident, died peacefully on Thursday, February 22, 2007 in Albuquerque at the age of 97. Robert Nordhaus was born in Las Vegas, New Mexico Territory, in 1909, and attended primary schools and high school in Albuquerque, where his family ran the historic Charles Ilfeld Company, one of the largest mercantile firms in New Mexico. He graduated from Yale College with a degree in Economics in 1931 and from Yale Law School in 1935. Soon after, he returned to Albuquerque, where he practiced law and helped run the family business. In 1935, he married Virginia Riggs, of Bronxville, NY, with whom he raised four children. They later divorced. His time in the East introduced him to the sport of skiing, and when he returned to New Mexico after law school, he became president of the Albuquerque Ski Club and developed what is presently Sandia Peak Ski Area, where the group first hiked and skied with primitive skis using toe straps and inner-tube bindings. He joined the army in 1941, helping to organize the newly-formed 10th Mountain Division in Camp Hale, CO, a cadre that was trained specifically for mountain combat. He served as Assistant Division Quartermaster during the troops' campaign in northern Italy during World War II. In 1955, he established the law firm of Nordhaus and Moses, and then in 1980 the firm of Nordhaus, Haltom & Taylor (now known as the Nordhaus Law Firm, LLP). He specialized in water and oil-and-gas law and represented over 40 Indian communities, litigating cases of national significance for the Jicarilla Apache Tribe, Laguna Pueblo and the Council of Energy Resource Tribes. He formed the Sandia Peak Ski and Tram Company in 1962. In 1964 the company completed construction of the Sandia Peak Tramway, one of Albuquerque's major tourist attractions. He was also instrumental in the development of Santa Fe Ski Basin. In 1994, Skiing Magazine named him one of 16 "Founders of Skiing USA." In 1998 he was admitted to New Mexico's Tourism Hall of Fame. He was honored as a New Mexico Living Treasure in 2002 and was inducted into the New Mexico Ski Hall of Fame in 2003. Robert Nordhaus was active in community life, and served with the Albuquerque Planning Commission, the Metropolitan Airport Development Committee, the Albuquerque Community Chest (now the United Way), the Albuquerque Economic Development Service. He was also on the Board of Trustees of the Albuquerque Academy, was one of the organizers of the Village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque as well as the Tennis Club of Albuquerque. He was a long-standing member of the Rotary Club. "G-pop," as he is lovingly known by his family, was a treasure trove of New Mexico history and a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. He is survived by his wife, Marjorie; sons, Robert Nordhaus and wife, Jean of Washington, D.C., Richard Nordhaus and wife, Mary of Albuquerque, William Nordhaus and wife, Barbara of New Haven, CT; daughter, Elizabeth Messeca and husband, Michel of Albuquerque; three step-children; nine grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren. A Memorial Service will be held for Robert J. Nordhaus at the Simms Center Auditorium at the Albuquerque Academy, 6400 Wyoming NE, Albuquerque at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 3, 2007. Reception to follow. For further information, call Daniels Family Funeral Services at 505-821-0010. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Robert J. Nordhaus Indian Law Scholarship Fund at Yale Law School or to the Indian Law Center at the University of New Mexico Law School.
Published on: Sun February 25, 2007