Reprinted with permission of the Albuquerque Journal
September 3, 2004
Entrepreneur Was 'Visionary'
By Lloyd Jojola
Journal Staff Writer
Catherine Powdrell was an entrepreneur, the matriarch of the Powdrell's Barbecue restaurant chain in Albuquerque with solid beliefs in God, the value of people and community.
"She was a strong visionary; a very strong leader in this community," said James Lewis, chief administrative officer for the city of Albuquerque and family friend for years.
"She's going to be missed sorely."
Powdrell died Aug. 25 at the age of 79.
In the days since her death, it has become clear from people offering condolences that she taught the same lessons, with the same spirit, to those who crossed her path, said her son, Joe Powdrell.
"That's what's impressive to find out ... she gave that same love, that same value to almost everybody she came into contact with," he said.
Catherine Daniels was born in Texarkana, Ark., and a "strong will and curiosity" showed at an early age. Her mother, a single parent of two, would travel to West Texas in search of work and opportunity, and ended up in Crosbyton, a farming community near Lubbock.
It was there that Powdrell received her schooling until the sixth grade at Frederick Douglass Elementary School and forged her faith at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. It was also there that she met her future husband, Pete Powdrell.
The couple were married in 1939 and soon had their first of 11 children.
"But mom had aspirations to be something," Joe Powdrell said.
She was determined to better herself and her children, and she saw the limited opportunities for her children that her mother had seen for her, the family said. Frustrations with social and institutional segregation forced the family farther west. They moved to Albuquerque in 1958.
"We came here with nothing but a boot and a shoe, and a lot of determination," Catherine Powdrell said in a 1981 newspaper interview.
Powdrell went into domestic work and her husband into construction work and hay-hauling.
Pete Powdrell's barbecuing know-how had been passed on from generation to generation, and the family's cookouts always proved popular, which eventually launched them into the restaurant business.
The couple started their first Powdrell's Barbecue in the early 1960s in the South Broadway area, Joe Powdrell said. Another, more visible, location was opened in 1969 at Gibson and Carlisle.
By 1980, the couple would receive the "Restaurateurs of the Year Award" in New Mexico, the family said.
It was under "Catherine's close accounting scrutiny" that the business grew in reputation and added several locations, the family said.
"She and dad really gave some good strong roots to a business where it could handle as much growth as it could muster," he said.
By her 50s, Catherine Powdrell and her husband had become noted personalities in the community and their church. She was a 46-year member of Macedonia Baptist Church.
Lewis remembered returning from military service and college and seeing Catherine Powdrell on the speaking circuit, talking of entrepreneurship.
"I asked her, 'What does it take to be successful?' '' he said. "And she conveyed to me that there are three ingredients you need to look at: believe in God, believe in family and believe in community.
"She believed that very religiously."
Joe Powdrell recalled that when Pete Domenici was a city commissioner, his mother served on an ad hoc committee focused on providing servicesâ€” not only recreation but training programsâ€” to young people.
"That's what her concern was," Joe Powdrell said. "We've got to get these kids trained. They're going to have kids. ... But if they've got the provisions to handle the expense of family, they're going to have more honor in their lives, less crime, more love, less hate."
Mentioning the Powdrell family's participation in events, such as the annual Juneteenth celebration at Thomas Bell Park, Lewis said Catherine Powdrell felt the obligation to give something back to the community and she passed those values on to her children.
"I think she was a real icon, a role model for a lot of us to look up to," Lewis said. "I sort of idolized Mr. and Mrs. Powdrell because they showed so much care for the community, so much love for their family."
A service for Powdrell was held Monday at Fellowship Baptist Church. Interment took place at Fairview Memorial Park.