Albert Exter Loop road sign

Albert Exter Loop road sign

The Board of HFC has established Albert Exter Loop in honor of a remarkable funeral director who made numerous contributions to improving life and death in Albuquerque. This road was previously called Remembrance Road on our self-guided tour maps, but a sign had not yet been put up. This sign is located just east of the Springer Walton Mausoleum in the center of the cemetery.

About Albert Exter

Albuquerque native Lori Mann wrote about her grandfather in her blog post:

Albert (“Bert”) James Exter – A Man to be Remembered

Here are some highlights from her post:

My grandfather died when I was very young, and yet, he is etched in my memory.  His contributions to the city of Albuquerque were notable, significant, and not to be forgotten, in my view.  My grandfather, Albert (“Bert”) James Exter, passed away when I was barely seven years old….

By all accounts, Bert Exter was a mover and shaker.  In an email exchange with Nasario Garcia, author of Albuquerque Feliz Cumpleanos: Three Centuries to Remember, Mr. Garcia states that my grandfather “contributed to the richness of Albuquerque.” His name was heard frequently in connection with the nomination to run for county commissioner1. According to my cousin and Bert’s oldest grandchild, Lauren Exter, who remembers him very well, when asked why he never ran for office, Bert said he preferred to remain behind the scenes making things happen, rather than to be in the limelight.  And he did just that….

(He was born in the small mining town of Kelly, NM. He came to Albuquerque in 1919.)

What began as an apprenticeship with Chester French, one of Albuquerque’s pioneer funeral directors, led Bert to become a licensed embalmer in late 1919.  He continued his association with French until 1926 when he left to organize the Model Casket Company and established his own funeral home at 216 S. Arno in 1929, thus creating the first single purpose funeral home in New Mexico. A single-purpose funeral home is one that has a clearly stated purpose and does not combine business with any another.  For example, the Strong family combined the mortuary business with their existing furniture business.

Exter-Blakemore Mortuary and First Air Ambulance Service

In 1929, Bert began a partnership with Albert (“Bert”) J. Blakemore to operate the Blakemore-Exter Mortuary.  By 1934, Bert and his partner moved the funeral home to 108 Yale Street SE. The mortuary was the most modern one in the United States at the time, with state-of-the-art equipment and sound piped throughout the building. It is now the McDonald’s parking lot at the corner of Central and Yale in Albuquerque.

During their partnership, both Bert’s collaborated with Bill Cutter, owner of Cutter Flying Service, to establish the first air ambulance service. The flight saved Mrs. Mary Craft’s life. She was suffering from a “paralytle disease” and needed to be transported to a lower altitude in order to recover. The two- hour and forty-five-minute flight got her safely to Stratford, Texas, where she could receive appropriate treatment and be cared for by her son.2  See

Exter-Tonella Mortuary

Bert was the sole owner of Exter Mortuary from 1936 until 1953, when he began a partnership with John F. Tonella and operated the Exter-Tonella Mortuary at 930 Stanford NE in Albuquerque.  John Tonella came to Albuquerque from the Canale-Tonella funeral home in Marquette, Michigan. In 1955, Bert was cited as “the most useful funeral director in New Mexico for the worth to the association, his profession and to the community.”3

The funeral home was “designed to get away from the depressing purple and other funeral colors commonly associated with a mortuary” with a “homelike atmosphere” in the reception room and foyer and a chapel designed for any type of religious service, as well as a private room for mourners,4 clearly paving the way for more modern-day funeral homes.  Exter-Tonella operated until Bert’s death in 1963.  John Tonella eventually sold the business to the University of New Mexico (UNM) for $265,000, which is equivalent to $2.46M today.  UNM initially held medical classes in the building and it later became the Health Services and Sciences Building.

For more pictures and history, read Lori Mann’s full blog post here.

Historic Fairview Cemetery is owned and maintained by an all volunteer nonprofit organization. To make a tax-deductible contribution, visit our donation page.

Albert "Bert" Exter and vehicle

Albert Exter and vehicle, courtesy Lori Mann