A Santa Fe Doctor During Simpler Times

Dr. Louis Zucal administering the oral polio vaccine in the 1960s.

Delivering babies, administering vaccines and pronouncing a murderer dead at the New Mexico State Penitentiary gas chamber. That was a typical day for Dr. Louis Zucal in small-town Santa Fe. In 1960, long before insurance companies began dictating the decisions of medical professionals, doctors like Zucal personally ministered to the needs of the community. For 43 years people came to his office with their various ailments; for those too sick to travel he would make house calls.

Witness to Tragedy

A heartbreaking time in his long career occurred when he had to care for some of the casualties of the Santa Fe prison riot of February 3, 1980. During the uprising, 33 inmates were killed, one of whom was decapitated, and more than a hundred were treated for injuries. It was the second-worst prison riot in the nation’s history after the one in Attica, New York, in 1971, in which 32 inmates and 11 employees were killed.

Born in a Mining Town

Louis Zucal was born on March 10, 1923, in Cerrillos, N.M., to Giuseppe and Louisa Zucal. His parents immigrated from Romeno, in northern Italy, and were part of the state’s first generation of miners that worked in the mines of Raton, Socorro, Madrid and Cerrillos. After sustaining a mining accident, Giuseppe Zucal supported his wife and five children by opening the J.O. Zucal General Store. The store became a local fixture in Cerrillos, N.M., from 1928 until the family patriarch died in1952. Dr. Louis Zucal died in 2016.

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