This week Mountain View said goodbye to one of the community's towering figures. Pat Figueroa, who served nearly 18 years on the City Council and helped spearhead the creation of Shoreline Park, died on June 24 due to complications from liver cancer. She was 73.
Figueroa, who grew up with seven siblings in the Southern California city of El Monte, moved with her husband John to Mountain View in 1968, and the growing community become more than a home for her. Figueroa gained a reputation for devoting herself wholeheartedly to local politics and civics groups, some of which she stayed involved in until her last days.
"She was a consensus-builder, someone who'd really try to bring the community together, and a staunch advocate for the things she believed in," said her son, Eric Figueroa. "She was a full-time mom and a full-time community volunteer."
Her son recalls that her penchant for civic engagement began with serving as board president for the Oaks Elementary School parent-teacher association. Figueroa later joined Quota International, the local Sister Cities Association and the Mountain View Historical Association.
In 1979, when the Mountain View City Council found itself with a vacant seat, city officials appointed Figueroa to fill the role. She took a liking to city government, and she ended up serving more than four full terms in city government, spanning from 1979 to 1988, and from 1990 to 1999.
"Pat was dedicated to her community in so many ways," said Councilman Mike Kasperzak, who served in city government with Figueroa during part of her tenure. "She was an inspiration to me from my earlier days as a young Red Cross volunteer, hearing her stories of the City Council and her travels to Japan and Belgium with Sister Cities."
Around the time she was on the council, Mountain View was in its final stages of developing its last areas of farmland and emerging as a suburban city. As a leader, Figueroa put emphasis on improving the quality of life for the town. Parks and recreation programs were considered a linchpin of her tenure in city government, and she is credited as a main proponent of turning the city's landfill into what became Shoreline Park and the nearby Shoreline Amphitheatre.
In addition to her time on the council, Figueroa helped bring a zen garden that was given by Mountain View's Japanese sister city, Iwata, to the city's Pioneer Park.
"She was about including all members of the community, embracing other cultures and empowering women," said Mayor Pat Showalter. "She was such a major contributor and a vibrant personality who will be greatly missed."
Despite her commitments in local politics, her son said that Figueroa was adept at balancing her work and family life. For a period, she was enrolled at San Jose State University, and Eric Figueroa remembers his mother reading aloud her textbooks to him and his brother in lieu of bedtime stories. She later graduated with a degree in mathematics, and her sons ended up pretty good at math, too, he said.
Sometimes, she would bring along her sons to downtown Mountain View and park them at a local arcade while she attended to city business. Family vacations often meant bringing everyone along to the annual League of California Cities convention in Monterey. While her husband and sons enjoyed the beach, she was attending seminars on local government. It actually worked out pretty well, although his father was sometimes the silent partner in her volunteerism, her son said.
"It became a family experience for us and she tried to include us however she could," he said. "Obviously my dad spent a lot of nights by himself, but she worked real hard to balance the two."
Besides volunteering, Figueroa enjoyed sewing, sketching portraits and traveling, especially in her later years.
Figueroa is survived by her husband, John, her sons Michael and Eric and her three grandchildren, Benjamin, Zachary and Elisabeth. City officials announced this week that starting on Thursday, for five days the flags at City Hall will be flown at half-staff in her memory.
A celebration of her life is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 7 at the Mountain View Civic Center. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that memorial donations be made to the Community Services Agency of Mountain View and Los Altos.