Pete Nalda, a beloved musician, raconteur, and student of all things relating to aviation and the military, was the offspring of two historic Texas and New Mexico ranching families. Pete died peacefully in the early morning hours of January 15, 2023, in Abilene after an unexpected illness.
He was born in Abilene on November 11, 1960, to parents Judy Laughter Nalda, a granddaughter of West Texas ranchers Arthur and May Sears, and Louie Nalda, son of the Basque-born rancher Michel Nalda Sr. and Marie Nalda. Most of Pete’s childhood was spent on the Nalda Ranch near Quemado and Pie Town, in southern New Mexico near the Continental Divide.
Always striving to overcome the visual challenges of being legally blind virtually from birth, Pete taught himself guitar and keyboards, encouraged by the talents of his father, who was a noted Flamenco guitarist and singer. He honed his natural talents as a session musician in Los Angeles and for many years in Austin, where he was active in as many as three bands. Whether it was a gig at the Poodle Dog Lounge or a party for Texas Monthly, Pete always gave his all.
He attended Judson Preparatory School, Eastern New Mexico State, New Mexico Military Institute, McMurry University and Texas Tech University. In his 50s, still playing in Austin bands, he received his Associate’s degree in Computer Information Technology with a specialty in Local Area Network Systems Security from Austin Community College.
In addition to his father Louie, Pete was preceded in death by an infant sister, Lucy Melinda Nalda, and a younger sister, Julie Marie Nalda. He is survived by his mother, Judy Laughter Parker of Abilene and many cousins.
Pete’s background in the high country of New Mexico with its freedom led not only to an inquisitive mind, but a wide range of experiences. As he wrote in the forward to his recently completed autobiography, “How many visually impaired people have driven Caterpillars, a Bobcat, punched cattle, piloted a plane, (albeit with supervision), or even attempted military school? And how many would even dress in character, even to this day? Talk about eccentricity!”
About his memoir, he said, “It makes sense to do it while I have the time and remember everything. And when I say remember everything, I mean I have a photographic memory of everything I could possibly see. So that’s why.”
Naturally gregarious, Pete could light up a room of people with conversation, especially if his guide dog, Hawthorne, was along. He has played keyboards, often an accordion, on the streets of Austin and and was a member of The Radio Gunners and Rumbullion. Said one of his bandmates: “in the world of Austin music, he can play with the very best.”
“As a kid, I think dealing with adversity made me a dreamer and optimist. A friend of mine would later write in a band bio that I ‘looked at the world through rose-colored glasses, with amazement and wonder.’ Stating for posterity, that is most of the time.”
Hawthorne is safe at home with a big yard and some dog-loving cousins in Abilene. Sections of Pete’s memoir will be available at www.PeteNalda.com.
Memorial services will be held at 1:30 on Thursday, January 26 at First Central Presbyterian Church, 400 Orange Street in Abilene, officiated by The Rev. Dr. Clifford Stewart, The Rev. Tommy Bye and The Rev. Chase Skorberg. Services are under the direction of The Hamil Family Funeral Home, 6449 Buffalo Gap Road. In lieu of flowers those wishing to donate in Pete’s memory may address Guide Dogs for the Blind, guidedogs.com, or P.O. Box 151200, San Rafael, CA 94915.