Montebello’s first female councilmember and long-time businesswoman Elaine Kirchner passed away following a brief illness on Sept. 7 at the age of 93.
Kirchner, also known as the “First Lady of Montebello,” leaves behind a legacy in areas such as education, public service, business and cultural exchange. She once said that, in her lifetime, she was “happy to see more equality and acceptance for women in our country,” that women’s “opinions are respected and they matter.”
Kirchner moved to California in 1924 and spent her childhood in East Los Angeles, attending Lorena Street Elementary, Stevenson Junior High, Garfield High School. She studied at Los Angeles Junior College before transferring to Santa Barbara State College.
She married Allyn Kirchner in 1938 and moved to Montebello in 1944 where she was active in the community, becoming the city’s first female councilmember in 1958.
During her tenure, she set up a sister city relationship with the Japanese city of Ashiya, a relationship that continues today.
Kirchner’s numerous accomplishments include serving as president of the Montebello Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the YMCA Board of Managers, and president of the Beverly Hospital Foundation. She was especially proud of her association with the Montebello Women’s Club and the Soroptomist International of Montebello.
She opened Montebello Travel, the first travel agency in Montebello, in 1961, where she served as president until 1992 when she sold the business.
In 2006, Kirchner set up the Elaine Kirchner Live Your Dream Scholarship through Soroptimist International. “I would love to see this scholarship program have an impact throughout the lives of the recipients, from the time they enter college all the way to the start of their careers,” she said of the scholarship.
Donations to the “Elaine Kirchner Live Your Dream” scholarship can be sent in c/o of the Soroptimist Club of Montebello, the Montebello YMCA or the Beverly Hospital Foundation.