Cover photo for Pomona Juanita Hallenbeck's Obituary
1932 Pomona 2022

Pomona Juanita Hallenbeck

November 12, 1932 — November 10, 2022

In Loving


Pomona Juanita

November 12, 1932 – November 10, 2022

Depending on the season, Pomona Juanita Hallenbeck would pack up her art supplies, tons of books, stack her two cats Jazzi and Cotton in their carriers on the front seat, hang a jar with her kombucha mushroom plus a bottle of red wine behind her driver’s seat, brew a last-minute pot of coffee to fill several thermoses and settle herself into her iconic 1973 canary yellow VW bug.

Coming or going, she knew there would be family and / or friends eagerly awaiting her arrival from the 800 + mile journey, as they listened for the gas sputtering, muffler rumblings and engine backfiring from her VW as she took the turn to the Oma House in Texas or they would see the clouds of dust trailing her on the drive into Ghost Ranch. If she stopped over at her studio outside of Roswell, for anyone paying attention, there might be a reported “Pomona sighting”. Her landings were always met with welcome cheers upon arrival and relief from her points of departure.

Two days shy of her November 12 birthday, Pomona once more gathered together what she valued most; her family, her sketchbook (always an Iona), a paintbox filled with fresh pigments, a few favorite brushes, a flask of water, a thermos of fresh coffee and took flight…to splash her brilliant colors all throughout the heavens.

Born in Roswell, New Mexico “before the aliens came” as she liked to say, Pomona was the only child of Grover Cleveland (Cleve) Hallenbeck and Juanita Henrietta Williams. Cleve, born in Illinois and Juanita, born in Indiana had traveled independently to NM, both recovering from TB. After meeting and being married in Albuquerque, they moved to Roswell where Cleve served for over thirty years as the local Meteorologist for the U.S. Gov’t. He was the author of numerous published scientific articles as well as having five books published on the history of the American southwest. Juanita, a graduate of Vincennes University, taught school, while also publishing articles and co-authoring one of Cleve’s books.

Pomona attended schools in Roswell and after the death of her father, while still in school, she went to work part time in a local photography studio where she became captivated by photography.

Meeting on a blind date, Pomona fell in love with Newton Mac Ellis, marrying him in 1951. The couple moved to San Antonio, TX while Mac served in the U.S. Airforce and Pomona soon found a job with a photography studio. She loved San Antonio, returning many times in later years for her family’s annual holiday celebration along the San Antonio River. Pomona gave birth to her first daughter Cheryl while in San Antonio. The young family returned home to Roswell after Mac’s Airforce service ended and their family grew to include two more daughters, Cynthia, and Catherine.

Pomona enrolled in Eastern New Mexico University while her girls were young, many times taking them to class with her. Graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Pomona embarked on her fifty plus year teaching career, with her first students being part of the “Special Education” program in the Roswell schools.

The family left Roswell, relocating to the Texas gulf coast. Pomona first started showing her paintings in local art shows with her work eventually being shown in galleries in Galveston and Houston. She was enchanted with the gulf coast, with all its color and organic textures and spent many hours sketching the shrimp boats and their grizzled fishermen.

By the late 1960’s, Pomona was hearing the voices from the civil rights, anti-war, and women’s movements. Uncertain of the direction her art would take her, she left her marriage and took to the road with her daughter, two conscientious objectors, a Vietnam veteran, a wayward priest, and the family’s poodle PePeLePu. Heading north to Canada the group was delayed at the U.S / Canadian border because PePe didn’t have his travel papers in order.

Finally, a veterinarian in Buffalo, NY gave PePe his rabies vaccination and the group was then free to cross the 49th parallel to be welcomed into Canada.

Months later, the approaching Canadian winter sent Pomona back into the U.S., settling in New York City. She loved Manhattan and expanded her skills as an artist by enrolling in classes at the Art Students League, where David Stone Martin referred to her as his “favorite monitor in the ASL.” She studied at Parsons School of Design and the School of Visual Arts. In need of a job, she found one working with Pattern & Print Studio, designing fabrics for the apparel and home interior markets. She reconnected with her friend Walter Wink, by then also living in NYC, and he introduced her work to Paulist Press where she went on to design and illustrate book covers for their “Classics of Western Spirituality” series. She later designed the covers for several of Walter’s own books.

Over ten years later, ready to leave Manhattan, Pomona bought a retired, yellow Chevy pick-up truck from the NYC utilities department, had a camper built for it, named the truck Mussie, and loaded up her art supplies, her loyal cat Brissie and returned to Texas.

Pomona settled in the Austin area near her daughters. She co-founded the atelier Alleyworks in downtown Austin, on historic 6th St, above a popular café. She maintained a studio there with other artists until the early 1980’s when she returned to Roswell to care for her beloved mother.

It was while she was back in Roswell that she first heard about Ghost Ranch, “The Magic Place” in northern NM; the place that would become her seasonal home for the next thirty-five plus years. Once there, she taught college students enrolled in “Jan term”, senior citizens in the “Exploritas” (Elder Hostel) programs, and everyone else in the summer “Festival of the Arts.”

Her life at Ghost Ranch was filled with joyful reunions with her Ghost Ranch family, decorating her golfcart for the 4th of July parade, Presbyterian happy hour(s) around the campfire at the Casitas, helping paint one of the “Painted Ponies” with Claudia and Leonard, finding friendship with the several Directors of Ghost Ranch during her tenure, contributing to the plans for the Art building construction, visiting the churro sheep at the farm and handing treats to the burros, delivering Thank You beer to “the guys in the shop”, shared meals over at El Farolito’s in El Rito, heading north on Hwy 84 with the promise of conversation and delicious coffee with Paul and Chris at 3 Ravens, treating her daughters to a ride on the Cumbres Toltec, the many road trips and invaluable teaching assistance from Marj, her fun excursions and enduring friendship with Cheryl M (her “NM Cheryl”), and the always challenging efforts to keep in touch with her daughters when she would drive up to “the movie set”, hoping to catch a cell signal so she could give them a call.

Along with being a gifted teacher and master watercolorist, Pomona inspired her “students” in ways to find their own, endowed creative spirits and as her friend Jeff says…how to “really see”. Pomona called Ghost Ranch her spiritual home. She was one of its most dedicated and influential Goodwill ambassadors. She introduced hundreds of students, friends and family members to its healing serenity, dark starry skies, and magnificent landscapes. One of her most popular classes; “Watercolor Sketching Northern New Mexico & It’s Churches” took students off the ranch and into the local villages she loved.

She served as the Ghost Ranch Artist in Residence for many years and was honored as their “Legacy Artist” in 2018.

Leaving Ghost Ranch in the fall might mean a stop in Roswell for a splendid meal and visit with Bob and Nancy (also the best art, truck and cat sitters EVER); or maybe a brief pop-in to see the late Morgan and Joyce to catch up on local news. Irene and Bonnie were a must stop…not only for their friendship but also their devoted efforts to keep Pomona out of IRS trouble. Pomona was always hopeful for a “field-day” with her painting buddy and dear friend Dorothy.

As a “Winter Texan”, Pomona would resume teaching at Laguna Gloria in Austin. While never figuring out how to fill out their attendance sheets, Matt kindly accepted her colorful substitutes! Some years found her teaching at University of TX, Dougherty Arts Center and the Continuing Education Programs for Bastrop and Elgin ISD. Famous for teaching her students how to make “color swatches”, once past their grumbling, many would later confess how helpful those swatches were.

Pomona’s sense of adventure and love of people meant she was always open to new experiences. An all-time favorite was with her daughter Cindi as they explored and traveled hundreds of miles over several years, following the headwaters of the Pecos River in northern NM to where it empties into the Rio Grande in TX. Pomona painted and Cindi took photographs, resulting in a book titled “Mother, Daughter and 926 Miles of River”.  On a trip to Istanbul with Cheryl and Rizk, Pomona found herself surrounded by curious school children as she sketched & spoke Turkish to them. Motel 6 in Big Springs kept a room ready for Pomona and Cathe to meet up for celebrating birthdays and a refreshing swim with growing boys.

Pomona was deeply spiritual in a broad, loving, open minded, universal kind of way. She studied languages, religion, art history, music. She was an intrepid traveler, loved to read and listen to the blues, New Orleans jazz, Tom Waits, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, the McGarrigle Sisters and Marsha Ball. Always ahead of her time, Pomona was making iced-coffee before Starbucks was born. A vegetarian that just could not quite give up sausage biscuits she was not much interested in cooking but somehow her daughters managed to survive. Nevertheless, Pomona was always in charge of cooking the enchiladas, New Mexico style; flat/stacked with a fried egg on top, for the annual family New Year’s Day celebration.

In her own words Pomona would say “Watercolor is the love of my life…it remains my favorite medium for expression because of its incredible sensuality and that small element of risk / resignation that sometimes forces me to ‘move aside’. Color is my emotional soulmate and I use it in literal, impressionistic, expressionistic, romantically abstract ways to develop the … essence. I believe involvement with art should be in partnership with the quest for spiritual understanding. I must create, share and hopefully ensure that myself and others will continue to unlock our potential for perceiving, experiencing, and expressing beauty.”

Pomona’s long career included memberships in numerous professional artist societies. Her work has shown all over the United States as well as in Canada and France and is held in many collections.

Pomona was a kind, gentle, humble, thoughtful, insightful, brave, generous, and always grateful artist who connected deeply with people. Her friend Kathy Chilton said it best: “Her voice and wisdom and talent live on. I use her name as a verb. To Pomona something is to decorate extravagantly while maintaining it’s essential character.”

We will add: To Pomona is also to love deeply, loyally, forgivingly, and joyfully.

A big shout out to her VW mechanics; Jack in Roswell & John in Bastrop, who always knew how to keep mum about the dings, dents & scratches that appeared on the bug and to Doug & Laura who rescued Pomona in her VW on the long, abandoned stretches of the NM highway while also keeping an eye on her in “the big campground”. Thank you to the Nelson family for your generous gift of Pomona’s EGP studio and to the Mackey family for her spacious silver “caravan” at GR. Thank you to Jeff in Austin and Cheryl M in Abiquiu, her forever favorite friends. You ALL and so many others made it possible for her to share her beautiful self with so many for so long.

Her daughters wish to extend their deep gratitude to Pomona’s Roswell family and her Ghost Ranch family. From all of you, our beloved Mom P was gifted over and over with your abundance of love, support and caring.

Plans for a future service are currently undecided. Stay tuned!

You are all in our hearts and we hope to hear your stories about our Mom P. Please share with us at: or P.O. Box 1622, Bastrop, TX 78602

Memorial donations may be made to Ghost Ranch, Laguna Gloria, your local Animal Shelter or Art group.

Pomona is survived by her daughters Cheryl Ellis & husband Rizk Ikhrais, Cynthia Ellis & husband Richard Ralph, Catherine Pellizzari & husband Trey Pellizzari; grandchildren Benjamin Ralph (Kim), Hollis Ralph (Kylie), Clyde Sheble (Megan), Christopher Timmons (Jessie).

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Pomona Juanita Hallenbeck, please visit our flower store.


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