Friends, family and fans on Tuesday remembered Eva Galambos, Sandy Springs’ “founding mother” and first mayor, as a strong woman who loved history, lived it and changed it.
“The mayor was very inspiring,” said public works department employee Melissa Rixey, one of about 35 people who gathered in the council chambers at City Hall to watch as images from Galambos’ funeral streamed to a half dozen large television screens.
“She had a vision and she was uncompromising,” co-worker Molly Boyenga said. “She was what I think all women should strive to be.”
Rep. Wendell Willard of Sandy Springs, a long-time friend and one of the speakers at Galambos’ funeral, called the former mayor “one of the most remarkable women I have ever known.”
The city of Sandy Springs plans a public memorial service for Galambos at Sandy Springs United Methodist Church on Friday, starting at 2 p.m.
Galambos, who died April 19 at age 87, lobbied state lawmakers for decades to allow Sandy Springs’ voters to decide whether to form a new city in her suburban community.
After the new city won approval, Galambos was elected its first mayor. She decorated her office with images of flying pigs, having a bit of fun with legislators had repeatedly told her Sandy Springs would become a city “when pigs fly.”
After voters created a city in Sandy Springs, other new municipalities sprouted across metro Atlanta. The “new cities” include Dunwoody and Brookhaven in DeKalb County and Johns Creek and Milton in Fulton County. State lawmakers this year called for votes on two more DeKalb cities, which, if created, would be called LaVista Hills and Tucker.
“Because of Eva Galambos, the state of Georgia and our legislators recognize that city government is the best form of government. Ultimately, I expect all residents of [metro] Atlanta will be in cities,” Roswell Mayor Jere Wood said during her funeral at Temple Kehillat Chaim in Roswell, which she attended with her husband, John.
Michele McIntosh-Ross, who lives in Sandy Springs and works for the city of Milton, said she appreciated what Galambos had accomplished. “We recognize in Milton that we would not be a city without Eva Galambos,” she said.
“I respect Eva. I like Eva. I’m grateful for the work she did,” McIntosh-Ross said. “She’ll be missed.
Galambos was born in Germany. When she was a child, her family fled to Italy to escape as the Nazi party grew more powerful. After a few years, the family fled Italy to escape the Fascists.
The family found its way to Athens, Ga., where Galambos attended high school. She graduated from the University of Georgia and later went on to earn advanced degrees, including a doctorate in economics from Georgia State University in 1969.
Willard said she wrote six books, including her autobiography, “A Dream Come True: My Very Good Life” and one on Atlanta area place names.
During the service Tuesday, her son John Galambos described her “as a Jewish mother on steroids,” who believed in hard work and persistence. Family members said she loved to read non-fiction, such as histories. “Sandy Springs is the fourth child that mom had,” her son said. “I speak to you as your brother. We’re siblings.”
Son Michael Galambos recalled his mother’s interest in sailing and the time she helped sniff out a moonshine still near her home in Sandy Springs. “Mom said, ‘I have lived a long life and I have lived a good life,” he said. “Few people leave this world having truly changed the world for those they leave behind. Mom was a member of that elite.”
Willard said that in her career as a politician, “it was never about Eva. It was always about what was good for the community,” and that without her, the city of Sandy Springs might never have left the ground.
“If we’d never had Eva, we’d probably never had a city of Sandy Springs,” Willard said. “Thank God we had Eva.”