Eloise Sherman was one of those people who seemed as if she would always be around, that she was somehow immune to the all-too-normal rhythms of human existence.

Trying to imagine Lakewood without Eloise Sherman was like trying to imagine the State Fair without corny dogs – it could be done, but why would you want to?

Unfortunately, now we’re going to have to try.

Eloise’s death last month was a loss to everyone who knew her, and who will miss her quick wit, her encyclopedic knowledge of the community, and her willingness to pitch in to get the job done.

No one, for instance, could dominate a meeting like Eloise, who understood that making a decision, and not pushing paper around, was the ultimate goal.

But her death was also a loss to people who didn’t know her. What they didn’t know – and what Eloise often seemed to go to great lengths to play down – was that she was one of a handful of people who helped to keep this community alive over the past two decades when no one else in Dallas seemed to give a damn.

Her record should embarrass everyone who says they don’t have time to help out. She was the first president of the Lakewood Library Friends; she founded the Dallas chapter of Literacy Volunteers of America; she was the long-time president of the Lakewood Chamber of Commerce; and she served on a number of City boards and committees.

You might disagree with her methods or her approach, but you could never disagree with her sincerity.

Eloise, like Dorothy Savage and Mary Jane Beeman, cared about her neighborhood in a way that the bureaucrats and developers who wanted to dismantle Lakewood and East Dallas never understood. This was her home, where she grew up and went to school and raised a family, and the logic that motivated others to move to North Dallas, Richardson and Plano never seemed to make much sense to her.

She understood the dynamics of change, which is never an easy thing to comprehend. All too often in public life, we spend an inordinate amount of time trying first to prevent and then to reverse change.

Eloise, on the other hand, realized that the Lakewood of today is only worse than the Lakewood of street cars and Doc Harrell’s drugstore if we let it be worse. She recognized our problems, but she also knew that our strengths were enough to overcome our problems – as long as enough people cared.

In this respect, she was 20 years ahead of her time. Today, hot-shot urban planners call what has happened to Lakewood and East Dallas a return to the inner city, a renaissance and a rebirth.

The catch is that these hot-shots abandoned the neighborhoods – otherwise, how can there be a rebirth? – While Eloise never approached the subject that way. There was never any doubt in her mind about abandoning a community that she loved.

Nothing shows this more than her commitment to the Lakewood Chamber. For all practical purposes, Eloise was the Chamber for many years, working without a staff, with little money and few resources. Even more amazing, she did this when she was well past 65 (how much past was one of the few subjects Eloise didn’t like to talk about), at a time she could have retired with the thanks of the community for a job well done. But she knew the community still needed her.

It still does, but we’ll just have to make do without her.

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