In and out of the real estate world, Gloria Van Zandt was a tireless negotiator.
At one point, after suffering an aneurysm, she tried to negotiate her way out of the IV tubes during recovery, her son Roscoe Van Zandt recalled.
“She said, ‘You know, I can understand your point, but why don’t we just undo one hand right now and we’ll see how this goes?’” he recalled with a laugh.
Gloria Van Zandt’s tenacity and energy sustained her through a life of success in regional real estate, service to Arlington communities and efforts to immortalize local history. She died June 8 in her home in Pantego at 79.
Colleagues from some of her dozens of jobs and causes said she was a hard worker, energetic and a woman who defied gender roles at a time when successful real estate businesses and community leadership roles were still primarily held by men. Those who knew Van Zandt described her as a “dynamo” and “vivacious.”
“Her reputation as a Realtor and as a deal maker was superb,” said Dixon Holman, president of Arlington Board of Realtors. “She is somebody that transcends generations of real estate.”
Van Zandt owned and led her namesake company, Van Zandt Realtors, from 1981 until 1996, when she sold the business to Wm. Riggs Realtors. A year before selling the company, employees at Van Zandt Realtors had booked more than $100 million in sales, according to Star-Telegram archives.
Larry Johnson, who served as CEO of the Arlington Board of Realtors while Van Zandt was most heavily involved, said everybody knew they could rely on her.
“She was just everything to everybody, I think,” Johnson said. “The things she accomplished and the things she did, it was amazing. ... And she did it during a time when kind of dominated the real estate industry.”
Van Zandt was also heavily involved in city organizations and held leadership positions with the Arlington Quality of Life Foundation and Fine Arts council, Arlington Board of Realtors, the city’s chamber of commerce and UT Arlington’s Friends of the Library Advisory Council.
Gerald Saxon, former dean of the UT Arlington libraries, said Van Zandt made the Friends of Libraries organization what it was.
“She was like a live wire,” Saxon said. “She was energetic, enthusiastic, she shook the bushes getting people to our meetings. I have to say she was phenomenally successful.”
Her passion for the UTA library came from a love of Arlington, Saxon said. Van Zandt was proud of her upbringing in Arlington, built a successful real estate business in the city and yearned to learn more about the history of the city and the region.
One way she did that was getting donations and new members for the Friends of Libraries at UTA. She was the founding president, and Saxon said she surpassed all expectations. At the first meeting, Saxon said the organization had a handful of members. After only a few meetings, there were more than 200.
And while that was one of her most passionate projects in the community (her family has even asked for donations to the organization in her name instead of flowers), it wasn’t her only local interest.
Top O’ Hill Terrace
Real estate was far from Van Zandt’s only area of expertise.
In fact, for years, Van Zandt’s 1969 essay on Arlington’s infamous gambling establishment Top O’ Hill Terrace was the sole resource for the casino disguised as a restaurant and tea garden.
“To this day, there’s still a lot of film companies wanting to do films on the Top O’ Hill,” Roscoe Van Zandt said.
Gloria Van Zandt became a resource for Vickie Bryant, the site’s curator, as she gathered information for her tours. Bryant has been leading terrace tours for over two decades, often calling or consulting with Van Zandt over discoveries.
“If I found out some really fantastic information, she would be one of the first people I would call,” Bryant said of Van Zandt. “I told her time after time that she was the springboard to what’s happening today.”
Van Zandt remained present with everyone no matter the time or place. That included getting strangers to talk to her, her longtime friend Tracy Stanley said.
“She’d never met a stranger. If there were 100 people in the room, she’d be around every one of them before the night was over,” Stanley recalled.
Similarly, Van Zandt had a habit of saying, ‘You need to do this,’ Stanley added, “and she wouldn’t give up on someone until they did.”
Van Zandt’s strong convictions earned Jim Maibach, president of Peyco Southwest, a spot on a Greater Arlington Chamber of Commerce group after she joined. She called Maibach after the fact to tell him he would join.
“It’s those kind of leadership positions that she would have the opportunity to be on and then recruit additional people,” Maibach said.