Longtime math educator and former State Rep. Ernestine Viola Glossbrenner, 79, died Sunday morning at CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Shoreline in Corpus Christi.
Glossbrenner recently suffered from various health problems and was undergoing dialysis.
Close friend Ruth Brillhart said she passed away peacefully Sunday about 11 a.m.
"She taught us all so many lessons in democracy and fairness and how to be honorable in all that you did," Brillhart said. "That's a lesson we can all live with every day."
After working for many years locally as a teacher, Glossbrenner was forced to quit her job when her second run for state representative came out favorable. Brillhart said members of the legislature are not allowed to hold other jobs paid for by the government, and as a result, representatives are usually wealthy or crooked. With her piddly new salary, Glossbrenner lived and campaigned on very little money as an unmarried woman with one income.
However, Brillhart said her friend's wealth was in her large circle of friends and passion for fairness in politics.
"She researched every bill and she listened to her constitutions on every issue," Brillhart said. "Nothing ever slipped by on a vote just because she was a Democrat. It was a researched thing when she voted. That's very hard to do. She left an example."
One of Glossbrenner's greatest accomplishments was co-authoring a bill that did away with voters' signatures on ballots, allowing for greater anonymity. Brillhart said part of that was wanting everyone to vote, despite ownership of property.
"She was one of the few that was such an honest representative," she said.
Brillhart remembers her friend as an independent and fun woman with endless stories to tell.
"She was a great influence on my life for being honorable and truthful," she said. "I will miss her the rest of my life."
Glossbrenner served as state representative for eight terms from 1977 to 1993 and a teacher for more than 20 years.
She received the 1991 Friend of Education Award from the Texas Classroom Teachers Association, the Public Service Award from Common Cause of Texas and the 1990 Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Texas at Austin. She also received the Distinguished Service Award from the Disabled American Veterans and the 1974 Woman of the Year Award from the Texas Women’s Political Caucus.
In 2000, Glossbrenner served as a commissioner on the Texas Ethics Commission.
She earned her bachelor of arts in chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin and her masters in mathematics at Texas A & I in Kingsville.
Former Alice Mayor Grace Saenz Lopez, who served as one of Glossbrenner's administrative secretaries during the representative's time in office, said throughout the counties she represented, Glossbrenner left a legacy of education and humility.
“She was so down to earth and could be depended on to always get the job done,” Lopez said. “She was someone who always fought for the people, the underdogs while in Austin, in her own quiet way. She did so much for us in Austin.”
Lopez said it was unfortunate that Glossbrenner was not honored more during her life. She said it would be wonderful to see a public school named after Glossbrenner.
“She fought not just for South Texas, but for the whole state of Texas,” Lopez said. “She will be greatly missed.”
Rev. J.N. Ferrell said he met Glossbrenner in 1984 and asked her to speak to the study body at Paul Quinn College. She always made time for young adults, he said.
“I first met her when she had her office in Alice,” Ferrell said. “She was a wonderful person. She was a civil rights advocate. She was a true American lady who believed in the Golden Rule and all rights ... she was one who had a beautiful character.”
Visitation is scheduled for Wednesday from 1 p.m. until 8 p.m., with family receiving guests from 6 until 8 p.m., at Holmgreen's Funeral Home in Alice. The funeral is at 3 p.m. Thursday at the First Presbyterian Church in Alice, 77 N. Adams Street.
A separate memorial in Austin is planned for 3 p.m. Friday with the location pending.