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South End champion dies
Elfrieda Textores, 73, known as a tireless advocate for Albany's beleaguered inner city
By KATE GURNETT, Staff writer
First published: Friday, November 5, 2004


ALBANY -- Over the years, Elfrieda Textores watched scores of neighbors flee her Third Avenue block, driven out by gunfire, drug dealers and blight. Textores stood steadfast in the South End.

In 2002, she brokered a compromise to save Lincoln Park Pool, convincing officials to refurbish the inner-city bathing spot. Her plan was dubbed "The Elfrieda Compromise."

On Monday, Textores died at home at 73. She lived all her life in the brick building where her father ran Otto's Bakery.

Saving the neighborhood "was her crusade," said Mark Yolles, a former officer of the Mansion Neighborhood Association.

As president of South End Concerned Citizens, Textores spent a decade photographing and cataloging blocks of boarded-up properties, then urging change.

"I'm tired of having people afraid to visit me in my home," she said.

Not one to mince words, she criticized Mayor Jerry Jennings for a range of policies over the years, from paying police extra money to live in urban areas to a lackadaisical summer program for teens.

Absentee landlords and real estate speculators were to blame, she often said, for the decay that marked so many city streets south of Madison Avenue.

Textores spoke frequently at Common Council meetings. In one letter to the Times Union, she thanked the Albany police for enforcing code violations, then urged the city to reinstate " 'Clean-up Saturdays' that the city seems to have abandoned."

"I'll always remember the flower lady," one mourner told Elfrieda's husband, Bill Textores, at the Daniel Keenan Funeral Home Wednesday. Each spring, Elfrieda dug in the dirt on downtown State Street, planting impatiens in the medians.

"She put her shoulder to the plough," said Peter Haley, former head of the Siena College music department. The Textores routinely accompanied Haley's opera group to see performances in Europe and Manhattan.

The pair traveled frequently and were slated to leave for Patagonia this weekend, said Bill Textores, a retired GE engineer.

Born the baker's daughter to immigrants Otto and Paula Thiebe in a diverse area called Dutch Hollow, Textores was of strong build, tall enough to accommodate the springali (anise cookies) and sweets she ate each morning.

"Today you're told you're supposed to eat bran and all that garbage," she once remarked.

In the past few months, Textores had developed an arthritic condition that required steroids and exacerbated existing heart trouble, her husband said.

Textores graduated from the Albany Academy for Girls. She taught social studies at Colonie and Bethlehem high schools for 33 years. As a girl, she worked nights with her parents to bake breads into the early morning. After retirement, she applied that stamina to crime-fighting programs like Weed and Seed. She often shared stories of past life in the South End while urging newcomers to embrace civic life.

"She could have lived anywhere," said Harold Rubin, former president of the Council of Albany Neighborhood Associations. "She didn't move. She stayed."

All Times Union materials copyright 1996-2004, Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, N.Y.