Cover photo for Milton Carroll Head's Obituary
Milton Carroll Head Profile Photo
1938 Milton 2024

Milton Carroll Head

August 15, 1938 — January 30, 2024

Grants

Milton Carroll Head, son of Mary and Alton Head (deceased), was born in Grants, New Mexico on August 15th, 1938.  The family had recently moved to Grants from their homestead at the point of the Malpais, and he was delivered by local midwife, “Mother” Whiteside.


At the age of 5, Milton could drive a team of horses and helped his older brother and father as they logged in the Zuni Mountains, a place he always loved.  Along with many others in the area, the family also mined fluorspar in the Zunis.


Milton attended the local public schools where he excelled academically. A childhood illness slowed his growth so that as a highschool freshman he was very small. However, by the next year, he gained much of the large stature for which he was known. He then also excelled in sports, lettering and playing on varsity teams for every sport offered at Grants High School.  A new student, Steve Mathews, wanted to introduce tennis to Grants so Milton and his good friend, Jim Elkins, said they were game and Steve told the story many times that they both showed up for their first tennis lesson in boots and hats—as they didn’t think it sounded like a very physically challenging sport.


Milton briefly attended New Mexico State University but returned home before graduating to help his family. He met and married Jonnie Lois Bell in 1958.  They have lived in Grants since then and recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.


 Milton went to work as a contract miner in the uranium mines.  But never one for only one job,  he built his young family a beautiful home in Milan. That house is still standing and looks almost exactly the same as it did almost 65 years ago. 


Milton had a natural inclination for engineering and was quickly encouraged to move into management in the mines.  He resisted for a while as he was an excellent miner and could make more money contracting.  Eventually, he did become a supervisor at which he also excelled including inventing a machine to automatically load ore cars, which was patented by the Kerr McGee Corporation. He was hired by the Conoco Corporation as project supervisor for a new mine in Crownpoint. The initial production shaft was drilled and this is the source of the large bit that sits in front of the mining museum in Grants. Milton had made meticulous plans to set shaft sinking records, and protect the local environment in ways that had not been considered in the industry to that point. For Conoco, Milton traveled to Japan to negotiate contracts and not only very much appreciated the Japanese people with whom he interacted, but was also appreciated by them for his direct, honest manner and his willingness to try any dish set before him.  The Japanese businessmen nicknamed him “John Wayne.”


After the uranium mining bust, Conoco asked Milton to relocate to Pennsylvania but Jonnie wanted to stay in Grants, so he partnered with a Wisconsin firm to manage large-hole tunneling for water delivery projects in places as diverse as New York City, Papua, New Guinea, and Alexandria, Egypt. 


As Jonnie’s real estate business grew, Milton helped her with land sales as his second job. His primary job being reclamation in Ambrosia Lake and for the coal mine near San Mateo.  During this time, his daughter and son-in-law decided to build a house but needed a general contractor, so Milton simply went to the testing office, aced the exam, and spent a year helping them build a home across the street from theirs in Murray Acres, where the family had relocated from Milan in 1974. 


When the Murray Acres neighborhood first learned its drinking water had been contaminated by pollution from the nearby Homestake mill tailings operation, Milton leant vital technical support to the community’s long fight and efforts to clear the area of that contamination.


Milton could engineer and build just about anything. Along with his son, son-in-law, and other family members, he renovated more than a dozen local houses, remodeled his house in Murray Acres, and bought a portable sawmill, which he and the family used to build a log home at his beloved “Chicken Ranch” in the Zuni Mountains with logs and lumber milled from his own land.   Milton and Jonnie spent many happy years at the “Chicken Ranch” a place where, in years past, the local loggers and miners would go to buy chickens, and a place known for its natural beauty and wildlife.


Milton and Jonnie founded  the Ridgerunner 4-H Club, whose members were perennial participants and winners at the Bi-County Fair.  Milton sheared their sheep, helped them buy animals, and dealt with problems large and small for everyone. He also served as the treasurer of the Prewitt Rodeo Club for several years.


Milton’s two children, Mary Candace, and Milton Mark, remember that they grew up believing there was nothing their father could not do, because for the most part, that was exactly the case.  


Milton passed at home surrounded by family on January 30, 2024.  He was cremated and his ashes will be spread in the Zuni Mountains he loved so much in a private ceremony in the Spring.  He is survived by his daughter Candace and her husband, Steve Dylla, of Parker, Colorado; his son Mark and wife, Beth Head, of Grants New Mexico; his four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren: Mariah Dylla and daughter, Rory, of Parker, Colorado; Layne Dylla of Parker, Colorado; Casey Head and wife, Ashley, and sons, Brayden and Jace, of Navarre Florida; and Randy Head and wife, Katie, of Olympia Washington; brother, Lynn, of Florida; and sister, Frances of Florence, Colorado.


Donations in Milton’s honor should be sent to the Alzheimer’s Foundation via: act.alz.org

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