Want to get something done in Santa Clara? Call 87-year-old Glorian Quigley
Glorian Quigley is a dynamo, a one-woman get-it-done-machine. The octogenarian has worked to ban smoking in enclosed public places in Santa Clara County, started a campaign to help seniors get rid of old medicines and household chemicals and fought for a mental health ward at Valley Medical Center.
She recently added the title of author, writing "Grandma Glorian's Cookies," which sold out in its first run, with all proceeds going to Books Aloud, which records books for the blind.
That the 87-year-old Santa Clara grandmother is blind herself is almost irrelevant.
"I've been blessed with a mind that loves to be challenged constantly," Quigley said in an interview in the garden of her tidy home of 61 years.
If there's a problem in the community, she feels compelled to fix it -- and then spread her formula for success as far as she can.
"he's remarkable," said former Santa Clara police Chief Steve Lodge, who Quigley approached several years ago about deputizing her and other volunteers so they could legally pick up expired medications from seniors. Their goal is to prevent the pharmaceutical waste from being dumped down the drain and tainting local waterways.
"Most people her age would be content to sit around," he said. "She's still trying to make the world a better place."
Quigley is an institution in Santa Clara, where there's hardly a politician who hasn't sought her advice or been on the receiving end of one of her pitches about a problem that needed fixing.
"Every time she calls, I say, 'What will Mrs. Quigley get from me this time?'" said Santa Clara police Capt. Diana Bishop. "She has a way about her that just makes you want to do the things she wants to get done."
Bishop worked with Quigley and Heart of the Valley Services for Seniors to get Drug Enforcement Administration approval for the local medication pickup program. Quigley is also hoping the whole county will get in the spirit this Saturday when the DEA holds its third "Take Back Initiative." Residents can drop off their old or unused prescriptions for disposal, no questions asked, at the San Jose, Santa Clara Mountain view Police departmentss, and the sheriff's West Valley substation in Cupertino.
Seniors who can't make it to the drop-off points should call Heart of the Valley at 408-241-1571 for later pickup.
When she takes up a new cause, Quigley pulls out her twin Rolodexes, which are in braille, and goes to work, reaching out by phone to the officals, friends and other community leaders she might need for a particular cause.
"She's always saying, 'We can't dilly dally, we have to speed things up.' She has things to do," said Glenda Cresap, executive director of Heart of the Valley, where Quigley is a longtime board member.
Born in San Jose, Quigley and her family later moved to Santa Clara, where she got involved early on with helping to build St. Justin's Church.
In the early 1960s, she became founding executive director of the Santa Clara County Mental Health Association, a post she held for 22 years. When she realized the need, she helped form the suicide and crisis hotline in the county.
"All of the people with mental and emotional problems were being sent to Agnews" state hospital, she recalled. "A few of us got involved to put in a small ward for the mentally ill at Valley Medical Center."
Quigley began attending community and government meetings and later branched into volunteer political consulting.
It was Quigley and her husband, Robert, who suggested Rod Diridon Jr. run for Santa Clara City Council, and their support earned both a lifelong friend.
"When you think about al she's done, Glorian would be impressive," Diridon said. "But the fact she's blind makes it even more impressive."
In 1989, the Quigleys were honored by the Santa Clara County Human Relations Commission for their efforts to collect money and food for shelters run by the Urban Ministry -- after Quigley had lost her sight, from retinitis pigmentosa, which causes retinal degeneration.
Over the years, she's managed to get Microsoft to donate money for a program to teach the blind about computers and David Packard, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, to offer a matching grant to help build the Sacred Heart Community Center.
The Quigleys also formed a coalition of the cancer, lung and heart associations and went city to city in the county to urge a ban on indoor smoking. It worked, and they both received an award from the surgeon general.
Though she's received numerous awards over the years, Quigley seems to get the biggest kick out of a framed photo in the hallway of her with 49ers great Jerry Rice. She's a staunch supporter of the proposed 49ers stadium in Santa Clara and was included in a commercial promoting the project.
The grandmother of seven and great-grandmother of eight began to lose her sight more than 40 years ago, finally going completely blind 10 years later.
When she learned there was no cure for her condition, she went to pray with the Carmelites in Santa Clara. She recalled a conversation with the Mother Superior.
"'Gloria, don't worry. God will teach you to see through your soul.' It took me many years to understand that statement," she said. "Now I can truly say I see people through my soul."
Before he died of cancer nine years ago, her husband remodeled their home and marked all the appliances in braille. He also recorded her recipes on cassette tapes.
"I measure with my hands," she said. "I take a chunk of dough that I think is the appropriate size and put it on a cookie sheet. I have talking timers. Just like someone with sight who sees a timer and adjusts it, I do the same, but I have to do it by hearing, not sight."
When she took one of the cassette tapes of her recipes to Books Aloud, which records books on tape for the blind, for some technical help, a couple of board members overheard her giving directions to her granddaughter on the tape about making cookies, "and they said, 'Glorian, can we have a copy of that?' I said, 'Make all you want. In fact, you're in need of funds, why don't you make a cookbook?'"
For Quigley, there is always a next project. She is now working to expand the local "Don't Dump Drugs Down the Drain" program.
"My mother said all you need in life is faith in God and a sense of humor," she said. "In that order, you can deal with anything."
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