Elois Zeanah: A Life Well Lived
Elois and her husband had always wanted to return to Alabama, and in 2003 they moved to Tuscaloosa. Elois hit the ground running and loved working in several community, state and national efforts. She served four years as President, Republican Women of Tuscaloosa County and four years as President of Alabama Federation of Republican Women, where she was also a member of the Steering Committee of the Alabama Republican Party.
Elois took her messages in person across Alabama. She traveled tirelessly to speak to grassroot Republicans on political issues, advocated for legislation, encouraged many women to greater public leadership, and reminded them all that narrow public/private special interests are at work here too.
Elois was a lady of grace, courage, optimism and leadership. She believed in God, her family, and a better country. To honor her memory, the Elois Zeanah Endowed Scholarship was set up with the Community Foundation of West Alabama in 2015. The initial interest for the scholarship came from the Republican Women of Tuscaloosa County to memorialize one of their beloved members in a perpetual way. After the initial scholarship was set up, tax-deductible contributions continue to be received from others who share an interest in seeing this fund’s impact continue to grow.
The Community Foundation of West Alabama was able to offer the scholarship management resources needed. The CFWA was established in 1999 and serves all of West Alabama by encouraging charitable giving. Each year more than $1 Million is distributed to about 150 various agencies through the generous support of our donors. One particular area of interest is in providing scholarships. CFWA currently manages about 10-12 scholarships, each with its unique set of requirements and purposes.
ELOIS ZEANAH was born in Fayette, Alabama on October 25, 1941. She grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi, and her family lived two doors away from their church friends, Vernon and Gladys Presley and their son, Elvis. Elois graduated second in her class from Shannon High School. At age seventeen, with fifty dollars, a rail pass and her mother to accompany her, she traveled to Washington, D.C. to begin her career as a personnel clerk at FBI Headquarters. At work she showed intelligence, initiative and drive and began her ascent into a successful and unique career.
Elois had exquisite secretarial skills, always an incredibly fast and accurate typist. She took dictation even faster, which was a priceless skill for any top executive. She had all the winning qualities – poise, tact, energy, initiative, trust, the ability to write better than her bosses, the ability to handle complex situations and difficult people with grace. Every place she worked, her talent would stand out, and she rose quickly to executive office positions regardless of the place or agency:
FBI – Washington, D.C.
NASA – Huntsville, AL
Hanscom Air Force Base/Lincoln-Labs, Bedford, MA
NASA Electronic Research Center – Cambridge, MA
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Washington, D.C.
White House Office of Consumer Affairs
Assistant to Chairman, Consumer Product Safety Commission – Washington, D.C.
In 1977, her husband was offered a very attractive career opportunity in Los Angeles, California. It was the right career and family decision, and they located in a suburb called Thousand Oaks, where they lived for 26 years and raised two children, Derek and Kristen.
In the late 1980’s, Elois entered the most challenging and ultimately the most triumphant period of her life. While her children were growing up, she came to realize our country was rapidly changing due in part to narrow interests, not only in Washington, but also at the local and state level. Elois was up to the challenge and decided she would make a difference in her community and state. So she began a multi-year campaign to recruit new and talented young candidates, organize community volunteers, and set up political issues training for citizens and candidates. As a result of her efforts, Elois served 8 years as City Council Woman, one year as Mayor and was voted Best Civic Leader in a readers’ poll by the Los Angeles Daily News for four consecutive years.