Farewell to a Matriarch

Lupe Eckstrom, 1915-2003

Lupe T. Eckstrom, matriarch and guiding force to the South Tucson and greater southside political and charitable family, died last week at age 88.

Sharp of mind but in declining health that required hospital and nursing home care, Lupe Eckstrom maintained her post as advocate by advising her new neighbors and helping them secure the variety of aid they needed.

Before there were social service agencies--Lupe Eckstrom's most famous child, Dan, has noted--there was Lupe Eckstrom. Out of her home, she organized PTAs, city and civic causes, charities for families, and church and other drives.

She was not one for boasting or glad-handing, even though she mixed with everyone from local pols to governors to U.S. senators and congressmen.

When there was too much political wind and too many blowhards, she was not above registering her disappointment by rising and leaving the room for fresh air.

Lupe Eckstrom was short and thin, yet a giant. She was not what people expected. She was a Republican Yaqui in those formative years of activism. Dan, who retired in September after more than 15 years on the Pima County Board of Supervisors and 32 in public office, captured his first seat on the City Council of predominantly Democratic South Tucson as a Republican.

Dan, at 56, is the baby of the six children of Lupe and Art Eckstrom, whose care for an ill friend led him from Michigan to Tucson. Art Eckstrom died in 1990 at age 87. Art. Jr., a former miner and Steelworker, has piloted job training and other programs for Pima County since well before Dan took county office.

Much of Lupe Eckstrom's work was done for a modest pocket of small but well-maintained South Tucson homes on and around West 40th Street. It is a mixed Mexican-American and Yaqui neighborhood that faced pounding and crumbling from machines and tons of concrete during Arizona Department of Transportation work on adjacent interstates.

Lupe Eckstrom phoned in the complaints. And phoned. And phoned. And when ADOT big shots ran for cover, including seeking protection from Dan Eckstrom, he told them flatly that ADOT was on its own to deal with Lupe Eckstrom. The house-shaking stopped.

It is there, along the Julian Wash, that Pima County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recognized her four years ago by naming bike and pedestrian paths and small parks the Paseo de Lupe Eckstrom.

Lupe Eckstrom passed numerous lessons on to her politician son and her other children, including one that their neighbors are entitled to more.

Public service is one way to accomplish things. Her granddaughter, Jennifer Eckstrom, is a veteran member of the South Tucson City Council.

Her huge family includes 15 grandchildren, 31 grandchildren and four great great grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Pio Decimo Center, 848 S. Seventh Ave., Tucson, 85701.

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