In his professional career, Bob Stockwell has held many tops jobs, including federal law enforcement, Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce executive director and Eddy County manager. But the job he is most proud of is the one he has worked at for 20 years without pay.

He was finally rewarded for his years of work at the Carlsbad Museum & Art Center last week in a special ceremony that included a presentation of a letter signed by President Barack Obama.

After retiring as county manager in 1993, Stockwell and his wife, Hedi, began volunteering at the museum. It wasn't too long before Stockwell rolled up his sleeves and began to do things there that the museum's budget could not afford.

In his 20-year association with the museum as a volunteer, Stockwell has painted the walls inside not once, but three times; he has worked to locate donors for various exhibits; cataloged and photographed the museum collection; and maintained the museum facility.

While all those things are proud accomplishments, Stockwell considers his chronicling of the Bataan Death March and the New Mexico National Guard 200th Artillery one of his greatest accomplishments.

His work dedicated to the men from Carlsbad who endured the brutal Bataan Death March in 1942 can be viewed at the museum, where he put together an exhibit that is one of the most viewed.


During the Bataan Death March, several hundred American prisoners of war perished as they were marched, along with thousands of Filipino POWs, through the jungles of the Philippines after being captured by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. Former Museum Director Patsy Jackson-Christopher, who recently was appointed as the city's community development director, said it became quickly apparent to her when she arrived at the museum that Stockwell had a love for it and would help her to get to know the workings of the museum and the community.

Last week, Stockwell was honored at a reception put together by Jackson-Christopher where he received a plaque from the museum for his 20 years of service, and commendations from the city of Carlsbad.

But the surprise for him was when he was presented the President's Call to Service Award certificate, which was accompanied by a letter from the White House signed by President Barack Obama and a pin.

"I was not expecting that," Stockwell said. Jackson-Christopher said the Call to Service Award was created through President George H. Bush, when in his 1989 inaugural address, he spoke about the vision of a "thousand points of light" and invited the nation to take action through service to their fellow citizens.

Jackson-Christopher said she began the process of obtaining the award for Stockwell in December of last year.

"To apply to get someone the award, you have to be a certified agent of a nonprofit, which the museum is. The application was fairly easy to do. Once that was done, I nominated Bob for the award," she said.

Recalling how he became involved at the museum, Stockwell said his father, Ira Stockwell, Carlsbad's first fire chief, had a private collection of items that included arrow heads and other artifacts. After he passed away, Stockwell said he believed the items were museum quality. He donated the items to the museum and helped catalog them and prepared them for exhibit.

He gives credit to his wife for putting together his father's collection of arrowheads for display at the museum.

Stockwell said his donation and the work he did putting the artifacts on display caught the attention of the museum director.

"Pat Jablonski was the museum director at that time," Stockwell said. "She invited me to come and volunteer at the museum. These past 20 years as the volunteer historian for the history museum has been one of the major highlights of my life."

During the past two decades, Stockwell has served under three museum directors and will soon be serving under another, once the city finds a replacement for Jackson-Christopher.

Stockwell said although he always had an interest in the Bataan Death March, it was sparked further when he was in the Navy and stationed in the Philippines for two years.

"I went to the cemetery there and visited the graves of some of the men from Eddy County," he said. Jackson-Christopher said Stockwell put a lot of his own money into the project by obtaining photos from the National Archives and in searching for, and the subsequent purchase of, firearms that were used by the men from Carlsbad in the 200th Air Artillery unit.

"It took a while to find the guns. I didn't want a copy. They had to be authentic with the correct serial number," Stockwell said. "They are now in the exhibit."

Asked if he plans to continue his volunteer work at the museum for another 20 years, Stockwell smiled and said: "I'm going to continue to volunteer, but I don't think it will be that long."