About Santa Fe Living Treasures

Mary Lou Cook, Founder of Santa Fe Living Treasures

Mary Lou Cook, Founder of
Santa Fe Living Treasures

The Santa Fe Living Treasures Committee would like to express our deepest thanks to those special people and businesses that, over the years, made important contributions so vital to our success. It truly takes a village to accomplish what we did for 35 years. For those of us fortunate to be on the committee, these efforts have proven one of the most gratifying and meaningful in our lives. We have been enriched beyond words. As Santa Fe Living Treasures’ wonderful run comes to a close, we know that there are many ways in which the community continues to acknowledge and honor the work of humble individuals, our heroes, that make Santa Fe such a special place to live. Thank you to all.


our mission:

The Santa Fe Living Treasures, an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) organization, publicly honors elders who have generously served our community with kind hearts and good deeds. Their oral histories and photographs are recorded, archived, and made available to the public at the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library, Santa Fe, NM.

who is a living treasure?

Our Treasures are 70 years or older, live in the Santa Fe area, and have generously served and inspired others in our community. Treasures include teachers, nurses, artists, writers, farmers, good neighbors, merchants, weavers, photographers, builders, architects, potters, dancers, physicians, historians, naturalists, environmentalists, healers, pueblo governors, journalists, musicians, volunteers, and people from many other walks of life. We expressed our appreciation for them at a simple public ceremony. The honorees were presented with awards, and friends and family shared their remembrances. Our honorees were selected from nominations from the community.

our founder, mary lou cook

As founder of the Living Treasures program, Mary Lou Cook has been its steady source of energy and heart. She has received numerous international, national, and community awards as a distinguished leader. She is also known for her work as a calligrapher, teacher, minister, author, and peace worker.

With age comes confidence. I love being this age.
I trust myself and I’m comfortable with who I am.
—Mary Lou Cook

Mary Lou Cook biography

our story

Peace activist and minister Mary Lou Cook, along with friends, founded the Santa Fe Living Treasures program in 1984. Inspired by Gandhi’s advice, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world,” the group wanted to do something that wasn’t being done—express appreciation for the important contributions of our Elders. Modeled after traditions from Japan, it is a simple concept of honoring those Elders in our communities who make a difference. The Treasures honored at our ceremonies represent our best values. In honoring them, the group aims to say a heartfelt “Thank You” and to inspire others to become active in serving our community. In the early years, Living Treasures ceremonies were held in homes, but as its popularity grew, increased public attendance required the use of public spaces such as a library, meeting hall, or local museum. 

start a living treasures program in your town

Our program has inspired the founding of similar programs in other cities in New Mexico and around the country. Learn how to start your own program.