Sunday, November 30, 2014

Genevieve Cowden Sultenfuss, BHS 1928

Longtime Glendale resident Genevieve Sultenfuss, who achieved several firsts for women in realty and community leadership, died on Sunday. She was 104. Her legacy included serving as the first female president of both the Glendale Assn. of Realtors and later the Glendale Chamber of Commerce. "Genevieve was a kind soul, she was a wonderful role model, and a beautiful spirit," said Councilwoman Paula Devine during Tuesday's City Council meeting. "She touched a lot of lives in her 104 years. She will not be forgotten." Sultenfuss was born on Aug. 12, 1910, in Colorado. She moved with her family to Burbank in 1923 and graduated from Burbank High School. She worked as a legal secretary for 10 years before moving onto a career selling homes in Glendale. In 1955, she opened her own realty firm, Glendale Properties Inc., and worked in real estate for 30 years before retiring. She was president of the Realtor association in 1968 and recalled in a 2005 interview with the News-Press what it was like to be in that kind of role while she was surrounded predominantly by men. "I just worked and worked and when people asked me to do something, I didn't know how to say 'no,'" Sultenfuss said. "I took it very slowly at first and didn't want to try and dictate to all these men what to do." She was also named Realtor of the Year by the association in 1972. Rick Barnes, the association's current president, said he first met Sultenfuss in 1976 and referred to her as a "stateswoman" for her decades of community involvement. "For me, she was the standard of excellence as a leader," he said in a phone interview. "She had a code of excellence and she lived it." Sultenfuss also won the Woman of Achievement award in 1977, bestowed by the News-Press. She was named president of the chamber of commerce that year and was a past president of Soroptomist International of Glendale, a volunteer organization for business and professional women, which she joined in 1961 and was a member of for 50 years. Sultenfuss was also the first woman to earn the Glendale Bar Assn.'s Liberty Bell Award. A big party in 2010 honoring Sultenfuss' 100th birthday was held at the local Elk's Lodge with more than 250 close friends and family in attendance. The City Council adjourned in her memory on Tuesday. As a past chair of the city's Commission on the Status of Women, Devine said she once named Sultenfuss as the chair's Jewel in honor of her life's work. During the council meeting, Devine fondly recalled another milestone for women Sultenfuss accomplished — being the first female member of the all-male Verdugo Club. "She felt that there would be some concern if she let people know, so every time she went to a meeting, she would take a male guest so that everyone would think he was the member and she was the guest," Devine said. "That was her sense of humor." Funeral arrangements are still pending and Sultenfuss' family members are encouraging donations be made in her honor to Soroptomist International of Glendale.