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Services Thursday for student missing since 1981

A memorial service will be held Thursday in Farmington for Joanne Dodge, a New Mexico State University student who was reported missing in 1981 and whose remains are believed to have been recovered from a car pulled from Burn Lake in Las Cruces last week.

vice is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday in Ryder Memorial Chapel at Navajo Preparatory School in Farmington. Burial will follow at Memory Garden. Arrangements are being handled by Cope Memorial Chapel in Farmington.

The state Office of the Medical Investigator was preparing Tuesday to release the remains to the family. Terry Coker, an investigator with the OMI, said a presumptive identification will be issued based on evidence found in the vehicle, an anthropologist's report on the skeletal remains and information provided by the family.

Identification found in the car pulled from Burn Lake June 13 belonged to Dodge, who was a 23-year-old senior majoring in elementary education when she was reported missing on Sept. 3, 1981. She was a member of the Navajo Nation from the Fruitland area near Farmington.

"She was just six credit hours away from getting her bachelor's degree," said a sister, Judy Becenti of Tohatchi. "She wanted to come back on the reservation to teach. She was very serious about education."

A memorial fund has been established at Wells Fargo Bank in Becenti's name. Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo branch, Becenti said.

"We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the family of Joanne Dodge," said Gladys De Necochea, vice president for student services and dean of students. "Coping with the untimely loss of a loved one is always difficult. We can only imagine the hardship of the uncertainty that was endured for more than 20 years. Our hope is that the family can now have a sense of closure."