Longtime philanthropist and arts supporter Mercedes Eichholz passed away last week at age 96.
“Merci,” as she was known to most, moved to Santa Barbara with her late husband Robert in the 1970s, and started supporting local arts and various foundations.
“More than anything, she was a force of nature,” said Geoff Green, executive director of The Fund for Santa Barbara. “She was unlike anyone else I’ve ever known. She was fierce in the best possible use of that word.”
She was supportive of The Fund for Santa Barbara and “all over the place,” Green said.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art has benefited from her support for decades. Eichholz served on the board and committees acquiring art for the museum, in addition to making large donations.
The Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation was created in 2011 to support the arts and donated $5.5 million in 2012 to put toward an endowment for the director position.
“Merci had a passion for life and for art, which she shared with all of us in the community, and which impelled her to become one of the great leaders and benefactors of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art,” said Larry Feinberg, the CEO and Robert and Mercedes Eichholz director of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.
“Beyond that, she was truly one-of-a-kind, a remarkable blend of keen intelligence, disarming honesty and wit, warm generosity, Louisiana gumption, and determination," he said. "The museum family has lost one of its most admired and beloved members."
Her family is still planning a way to celebrate her life, Green said.