Gainesville State College's first employee, Eleanor Crawford, died Tuesday at the Oaks at Limestone after an extended illness. She was 95.
The Board of Regents hired Crawford as its first employee of then Gainesville Junior College in 1965.
She served as the assistant to Hugh M. Mills Jr., the college's first president.
Staff members who knew and worked alongside Crawford recalled a dedicated woman whose spirit radiated.
"We loved Eleanor," said Gloria Brown, who worked 20 years at the college until she retired in 1998. "She was just the mainstay of the college. She was a wonderful lady, always pleasant, always smiling and so efficient. My goodness, we'll miss her. We really will miss her."
After her retirement in 1981, Crawford remained a supporter of Gainesville State. In 1988, she was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award given by the Alumni Association. In 1989, the GSC Alumni Association established the Eleanor Crawford Award as an annual recognition of staff members for extraordinary loyalty, dedication and service to the college, their fellow employees and students, said Sloan Jones, Gainesville State's director of public relations and marketing.
The award was named after Crawford because she exhibited these qualities during her time at the college and beyond, she said.
"We are saddened by the loss of Ms. Crawford," President Martha T. Nesbitt said. "She was a dear friend to the college and she will be missed. Her work ethic and strong support for the college are key components of her legacy. We will always remember her smile and enthusiasm."
Crawford was preceded in death by her husband John, who was the comptroller for Jesse Jewell Poultry Co.
The couple married in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1942 and lived in Illinois following World War II. They moved to Gainesville in 1957.
She started work at the college before the first building was erected, her daughter Marty Mulkey said. Her mom was proud of her service, she added.
"I think so, yes, because of the community and what was happening at Gainesville. That was very exciting for students who couldn't afford to go off," she said. "Education was very important to her. I think she was involved with the students as well as faculty and staff."
After her retirement, Crawford worked for cartoonist Ed Dodd, who she assisted in writing a novel. His widow Rosemary Dodd will speak at the service planned for 2 p.m. Friday at the First Presbyterian Church in Gainesville.
When reflecting on her mom personally, Mulkey and her three siblings marvel at how their mom managed to make them feel so individually special.
"We have laughed all these years and said there are four of us, but we are all only children," Mulkey said. "Don't ask me how she did it with four children, or had time to do it (all that she did)."