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South End activist is gone but still a force
Memorial for Elfrieda Textores will raise money for after-school program
By KATE GURNETT, Staff writer
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First published: Wednesday, April 26, 2006


ALBANY -- If Elfrieda Textores were to walk through her neighborhood today, she would not be happy.

Plywood hangs halfheartedly across jagged windows. For-sale signs flourish on lower Second Avenue. The disarray has worsened since her unexpected death in 2004. And if the tireless activist saw Mayor Jerry Jennings, she'd likely give him an earful.


Instead, Jennings will give remarks at the release of a small biography entitled "Elfrieda -- A South End Legend," during a memorial reception Saturday at the John A. Howe Library.

The tribute to Textores, who was born and who died at her house at Elizabeth Street and Third Avenue, will raise cash for the library and for Two Together, Inc., an after-school and summer enrichment program based in the South End.

Albany residents helped write the biography, including Elfrieda's husband Bill Textores, librarian Linda Mallory Mitchell, Alderwoman Carolyn McLaughlin and county Legislator Lucille McKnight. It will be used in Albany's elementary schools as part of the social studies "Local Biographies" curriculum.

The tribute is among several on tap for Textores, a social studies teacher who grew up working in her parents' bakery and ran a grass-roots 2002 campaign to save Lincoln Park pool.

"Elfrieda was an inspiration for all of us," said Laura Chodos, president of Two Together. "She cared about her community, and especially for the children. Every community needs an Elfrieda to energize its people to care about and watch out for each other."

As president of South End Concerned Citizens, Textores spent years cataloging the blocks of boarded-up properties in a blighted area routinely ignored by City Hall.

She was an outspoken critic of absentee landlords, real estate speculators and politicians. The pamphlet-style book describes Elfrieda's life during the Great Depression with its trolley rides, penny candy and pickle barrels. Her father, German immigrant Otto Thiebe, made hot apple kuchen for local churches. Elfrieda was later known for her anise cookies.

After she retired, Textores began a neighborhood garden, hosted block parties and saw more than 300 performances at the Metropolitan Opera.

"She was an icon," said Jennings.

Textores died in her kitchen in 2004 at age 73.

On April 29, some fifth- and sixth-graders at Giffen Elementary will receive the First Annual Elfrieda Textores Essay Awards. This year's theme is "My Own Neighborhood Hero."

Dixie cups of seedlings will be given to each child who attends the memorial reception in keeping with Elfrieda's tradition of giving plants to children for Mother's Day gifts to parents, Chodos said.

The library is creating an Elfrieda Collection of books.

Meanwhile, Bill Textores is funding a scholarship in his wife's name for students involved in community service at the University at Albany's School of Social Welfare. His former employer, General Electric, is matching his donation.

"She was involved with so many different things, people didn't know," Bill Textores said. "And she didn't want them to know. She never wanted to be noted for anything."

On Easter, she cooked and colored 26 dozen eggs to hide in a South End field for a hunt. In May, the Textores would arrive on State Street at 5 a.m. to plant petunias in the city flower beds.

"That was her life, that was just the way she was," Textores said. "It's just too bad she couldn't stay a little longer."

All Times Union materials copyright 1996-2006, Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, N.Y.