A longtime business leader and former Santa Clarita Valley Man of the Year, Samuel X. Garcia, died Monday. He was 101.
Born in Puerto Rico on May 19, 1921, Garcia would go on to lead a company then known as HR Textron for 17 years as president and then chair of the important employer during Santa Clarita’s early days.
Garcia was renowned for using his influence and means to help others, according to those who knew him well. He was particularly fond of supporting children’s charities, including the SCV Boys & Girls Club, for which he served as chair of the board.
Garcia came to the United States as an infant and lived in Galveston, Texas, and then Phoenix before his family settled on the upper East Side of Manhattan, where, as a boy, he ran errands for Fiorello LaGuardia, who was a neighbor, according to his son Theodore Garcia.
Sam Garcia enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II and served in the Pacific Theater with distinction, earning recognition that included a Bronze Star for work that involved transporting troops as well as rescue missions.
When he came back from service, he began working in Burbank for a company called Buchanan Manufacturing at the time, where he worked his way up the ranks, before the business was ultimately acquired by Ledeen Manufacturing.
That merger ultimately was acquired by HR Textron, which became Woodward HRT and now just Woodward. The latter remains a presence in the SCV manufacturing space, doing business in 14 countries with more than $2.3 billion in sales, according to its website. Sam Garcia became president of the company in 1971 and retired as its chair in 1988.
“Where do I start on Sam Garcia, oh my goodness — he was such a caring soul, is the first thing that comes to my mind,” said Jim Ventress, longtime executive director of the Boys & Girls Club in the SCV.
JoAnne Gilfoy, who was Sam Garcia’s executive assistant in the 1980s, said he was a beloved leader in the community and at the aerospace company, which at the time was the SCV’s largest employer with as many as 1,300 employees.
“He was a great, wise man, loved by many,” Gilfoy said. “I have great memories of him and will always be grateful for his decision to hire me.”
In addition to leading the Boys & Girls Club Annual Auction twice, including the first one to net more than $250,000, he also helped with the United Way, where he was a regional chair for an area that covered millions, involved in the Child Guidance Clinic, and was recognized by Cardinal Roger Mahony for his work supporting children in Catholic schools.
Theodore Garcia on Wednesday recalled hearing his father joke with Mahony about his devotion to helping the diocese, even though he was Protestant.
“Cardinal Mahony called him the best Catholic he’d ever met,” the younger Garcia recalled humorously.
He earned the SCV Man of the Year Award in 1983 as a result of his work in the nonprofit community.
Sam Garcia was preceded in death by his three wives, Carmen, Marian and Phyllis; his sons, Louis (Santa Barbara), Theodore (Burbank); daughter, Sandy (Northern California); stepdaugher, Karen Youra; and his two grandchildren, Emily Elizabeth and Nicholas Maximillian.
Services for Sam Garcia, which are open to the public, are scheduled for 3 p.m. May 19 at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, according to his son Theodore Garcia.