Roberta G. Veloz, the 1998 Santa Clarita Valley Woman of the Year honoree and namesake of the Cardiovascular Center at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, has died. She was 84.
“She was an incredible woman of our valley, a pioneer woman right up there with Connie Worden-Roberts and Jo Anne Darcy,” said Santa Clarita City Councilwoman Laurene Weste, who knew Veloz most of her life.
She was born Roberta Garrett in Butterfield, Missouri, on April 4, 1936. Her father Orval was an auto mechanic and her mother Mary was a homemaker. They moved to Yuma, Arizona, and in 1942, they moved to Whittier, California. Along the way, they added Marci and Ken to their family.
Roberta was a happy big sister and a good student, and after high school, she attended Whittier College. With a degree in biology, she became a medical technician at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena.
In 1961, she married Tom Veloz; they had two sons, David and Peter. They bought a new home in Sunland, and Roberta spent the next dozen years raising her children. She was a devoted mother who threw birthday parties, sewed Halloween costumes, and made Christmas mornings magical.
She also organized summer road trips and family camps, creating memories the boys would keep throughout their lives. She shepherded them to Little League games and music lessons, to Scout meetings and band practices. She made sure they did their homework, and though the din coming from their bedrooms was often thunderous, she insisted they practice their guitars and drums.
Roberta loved to entertain. She and Tom were part of a circle of friends who got together often for backyard barbecues and poker parties, and Roberta always made sure her home was a welcoming gathering spot. Her holiday dinners were elaborate affairs, and both sides of the family looked forward to breaking out the good silver for a delicious meal.
Roberta read voraciously; there was always a Michener or a Ludlum open somewhere in the house. She solved the crossword puzzle every morning. She also fixed fences, midwifed puppies, played catch, built chicken coops, baked cookies, and one summer, she and a friend took a car trip through the Southwest into Mexico. Through it all, she was there for her sons.
In 1977, Roberta went back to work to help Tom run Aquafine Corporation, the manufacturing company founded by his father in 1949. She realized she had an aptitude for business. She took some management courses and within a short time, she ran the production department.
That same year, Roberta and her family moved to the Santa Clarita Valley, and three years later, Aquafine also relocated to the SCV.
In 1992, after she and Tom divorced, Roberta acquired the company. Under her leadership, Aquafine’s sales grew dramatically over the next 13 years, as Aquafine became recognized as a world leader in ultraviolet water disinfection.
Veloz not only became a corporate executive but also plunged into local volunteer work in the SCV. She joined Soroptimist International and traveled to conferences around the world. She served on the boards of the Samuel Dixon Family Health Center and the Child & Family Center.
Roberta was also a board member of the College of the Canyons Foundation, and she raised money for several COC capital campaigns, including one to help fund construction of the Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center on the Valencia campus.
Veloz joined the board of the Henry Mayo Newhall Health Foundation and later served on the Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Governing Board as well. She became a member of the Board of Trustees at Whittier College, and in 1994, she donated $1 million to endow Garrett House, a faculty-in-residence program named after her parents.
In recognition of her contributions to the community, Veloz was named the Santa Clarita Valley “Woman of the Year” in 1998.
Some years later, Veloz recalled what she thought about receiving the honor: “I was totally shocked and very proud. The honorary license plate frames they presented to me – reading ‘1998 SCV Woman of the Year’ – are still on my car today.”
Since 1989, Veloz had worked tirelessly to support the development of programs, services and cardiac care at Henry Mayo. Her service on both the hospital and the Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Foundation boards of directors made a lasting impression on the hearts and minds of those who come through the hospital’s doors.
After receiving that award, Veloz did not slow down. She continued her involvement with the Child & Family Center, the Dixon Center, the governing board of Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, and the COC Foundation.
Veloz was named the COC Silver Spur honoree in 1999 in recognition of her efforts to get the University Center built.
Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital President/CEO Roger Seaver, Santa Clarita Mayor Frank Ferry and Roberta G. Veloz are pictured at the hospital in June 2012.
“Roberta was an amazing woman who was instrumental in my growth as a leader,” said Van Hook, COC’s Chancellor, in a statement. “When I first came to the Santa Clarita Valley, she was one of the few female CEOs in the community. She was an incredible role model and mentor, and I learned from her example while working with her on many initiatives, including the executive committee for the United Way.
“She played a particularly pivotal role in the success of our University Center Capital Campaign through her generosity and ability to help others see the vision of what it would mean for local residents to have access to advanced degrees,” Van Hook said. “She is someone whose courage, strength and philanthropy shaped our community, and she will be greatly missed. I consider myself blessed to have counted her as a friend.”
“We are very saddened by the loss of Roberta Veloz, a true SCV icon,” Kathy Norris, CEO/president of the Valley Industry Association, said Monday. “Her longtime support of business, nonprofit organizations and the SCV community have made such a difference to so many. She will be very missed.
“VIA was quite fortunate to have Aquafine as member of our Board of Directors for many, many years,” Norris said. “Roberta always encouraged her staff to be involved in the community, and her own consistent support of business organizations and other nonprofits was quite well known. VIA benefited greatly from that relationship. Our board representative from Aquafine was instrumental in the creation of our Connecting to Success Program which has trained more than 15,000 high school students from the Hart District in the professional skills they need to enter the world of work.”
Veloz sold Aquafine and retired in December 2005. That same month, she made a generous donation of $3 million to Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital to create a new Cardiac Cath Lab, which bears her name — the Roberta G. Veloz Cardiovascular Center.
After retirement, Veloz redoubled her philanthropic efforts. And on June 21, 2012, Henry Mayo physicians and staff joined community leaders to celebrate and honor her for helping expand the services at the hospital’s Roberta G. Veloz Cardiovascular Center.
Surgeons operate on a patient at the Roberta G. Veloz Cardiovascular Center at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital in Valencia, California.
“I’ve given to – and been active on – many, many charities. And now, in my retirement, I only have one charity. And that is the hospital,” Veloz said upon receiving the honor.
“Roberta was an amazing lady — strong, capable, focused, very goal-oriented,” Weste said Monday. “She got the job done. She was an incredible blessing to our hospital. It was everybody’s fortune to have her give that $5 million to Henry Mayo. You have to know that she wanted everything to be good, and better, for her valley. I’m just very proud that I knew her and was able to see her as one of those strong woman leaders who really marked the 20th Century and helped bring us into the 21st Century.”
Roberta is predeceased by her mother and father, Mary and Orval Garrett, by her former husband Thomas Veloz, by her sister-in-law Elaine Veloz, and by her brother-in-law, Jim Evans. She is survived by her sister Marcia Evans, her brother and sister-in-law Ken and Janine Garrett, by her son David Veloz, by her son and daughter-in-law, Peter and Karen Veloz, and by her grandchildren Hunter Veloz, Noah Veloz, Cole Veloz, Torrey Veloz, Olivia Veloz, Oskar Veloz and Owen Veloz.
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