During a visit to her Hanover Road home for an interview a few years ago, this editor had the distinct pleasure of sitting with one of Waterloo’s true stalwarts, Eleanor Garcia.
And even though the advanced stages of Parkinson’s Disease had taken a toll at that time, her intense inner drive, wit and smarts were still quite evident.
“She’s the most driven person I’ve ever met,” her son Bryan Garcia said then. “There’s just no mountain high enough for her.”
Eleanor is gone now, but the fond memories of her desire to serve and promote this community in the very best ways possible will always remain.
Eleanor died Jan. 2 at the age of 89. Funeral services were held Friday and Saturday.
She spent her childhood years in St. Louis before moving to Belleville, but eventually found her way to Waterloo, where she had lived since 1973.
Eleanor was the only woman on the Waterloo Chamber of Commerce when she joined in the late 1970s.
Asked how she worked her way into the previously male-dominated organization, Eleanor answered jokingly, “I had a bigger mouth than the rest of them, I guess.”
That was just the beginning of her long tenure with the Chamber. She went on to serve as president, secretary, treasurer and all-around ambassador during her more than 30 years with the organization.
Professionally, Eleanor first partnered in Fetto Electric before jumping into the real estate arena by joining Kipping Real Estate in 1977. She later formed her own agency, Garcia Real Estate Services, with offices in Red Bud and Waterloo.
“She was very successful at what she did, and it was really a man’s world then,” Bryan said of his mother. “I’m really proud of her.”
Outside of her strong Chamber involvement, Eleanor also served on the Waterloo School Board from 1978 to 1993 — including 10 of those years as board president. She was instrumental in coordinating plans to build Rogers Elementary School during that time.
One of Eleanor’s proudest life accomplishments was being chosen the Chamber’s recipient of the 2004 Community Service Award for all her efforts.
“Eleanor was a true community leader,” said longtime Chamber board member Gary Hemmer, President and CEO of First National Bank of Water- loo. “She was very dedicated to the Waterloo community and Waterloo Chamber of Commerce. She put her heart and soul into making Waterloo the best place to live, work and shop. I enjoyed working with her on the Chamber board. She will be truly missed.”
Fellow longtime Chamber official Mark Altadonna, President of State Bank of Waterloo, agreed.
“I didn’t realize how much Eleanor did for the Chamber until I took over for her as secretary,” he said. “She had that volunteer job for nearly 20 years. She rarely, if ever, missed a Chamber board meeting, and had served so many years as a board member that she was the ‘go-to’ person whenever we needed the history about some issue.”
Altadonna added that prior to the Chamber hiring an executive director, Garcia’s office served as the de facto Chamber office.
“She picked up the mail, answered the Chamber phone, and responded to inquiries about doing business in Waterloo,” he said.
Even after retiring from the board, she continued to attend Chamber events until her health declined, Altadonna said.
“She was truly a mainstay of the local business community and will be sorely missed,” he said.