The youngest of eight siblings, Edward “Eddie” Salvator Garcia was born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1925. His Italian mother, Rosa Bevilacqua, had moved to the area from Boston, and his father, Manual Garcia, had emigrated from La Coruna, Spain. Eddie grew up during the Great Depression, and the family struggled to get by. Still Eddie said that they had so much. They had love. They had each other. They just lacked material possessions. Their family values were deeply rooted in providing for each other and in their service to the community.
Although he loved school, Eddie stopped attending at the age of thirteen, education a luxury his family could no longer afford. He became an entrepreneur selling newspapers on the corners in downtown Norfolk for three cents each, with special editions raking in a nickel, him and his older brothers laying claim to some of the hottest corners in the city where a boy had to be tough and alert to keep his turf. Once out of school, he went to work at Mr. Looney’s motor shop, scraping oil off the floor for twenty cents an hour. He always wanted to work “seven tens”, seven days a week, ten hours a day, equally fascinated by the workings of the motors and the discussions of business and jobs as clients came in to have their motors repaired and rewound. Eddie’s hard work and ambition soon garnered attention, and a foreman from the Naval base was willing to overlook his age to enlist his help with heavy construction on the area bases. He offered grueling hours and a raise to thirty-five cents. Eddie, then fourteen, leapt at the chance.
Determined to serve his country, Eddie followed three of his brothers into action and joined the Navy in 1943 at the age of seventeen. He was sent first for advanced training as an electrician and then to serve in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Upon returning home in 1946, he joined the Marine Corps Reserve, serving our country for two additional years. He briefly worked for others, both here and in Pennsylvania, as he honed his trade and took and passed the exam to become a master electrician.
With license in hand at the age of twenty-five, Eddie set off on his own in 1951. Poor and with a name like Garcia, he was unable to get a loan from area banks, but his daddy believed in him and gave him several hundred dollars of his hard-earned cash. He bought a broken-down truck and set up shop. He started ES Garcia Electric for larger, union jobs and Volta Electric for smaller ones. He got jobs by bidding low and then staying on top of everything, keeping costs down and filing change orders for each and every addition. He worked night and day, and soon had seventeen trucks running electric work on government contracts and commercial buildings.
As his company and his family expanded in the mid-fifties and early sixties, Eddie developed deep and abiding friendships with John Aragona Sr. and Sydney Kellam, two men who were helping to shape Princess Anne County into the City of Virginia Beach as we know it. He learned real estate from John and politics from Sydney, bringing his own ingenuity, work ethic and vision to the process. He married Sandra Holladay and his personal life took a decidedly positive turn as together they raised six children. Still he continued to work, night and day. Eddie had a knack for winning government contracts, willing to work harder and smarter than the competition. Once while working a contract on Norfolk Naval Station, he designed a cable feeder that made it possible for three men with walkie talkies to do the work of twelve. It saved him five months and big dollars and is just one example of his constant ability to find unique and innovative ways to get a job done. Over the years, Eddie was involved with the completion of docking facilities for the first nuclear submarine “Nautilus;” phase one construction of Oceana Naval Air Station; runway and barracks renovation of the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida; and initial construction of the Cape Kennedy Space Center.
He had many dealings with the City of Virginia Beach, including selling the Bow Creek Country Club to the City in 1974; selling two utility companies to the City in 1977 that served the Princess Anne Plaza area; and in 1982, selling the City seven acres on Virginia Beach Boulevard for the main public library and later amassing several land holdings that he sold to the City for what is now known as Corporate Landing.
He helped to shape Virginia Beach with such notable buildings, developments and landmarks as Oceanside Condominium, LagoMar, Princess Anne Plaza Shopping Center (Sam’s Club), Ocean Breeze Waterpark/Motor World, Pavilion Tower Hotel and Conference Center (now Doubletree Hotel), Thalia Wayside, Virginia Beach Veterans Memorial, Sir Richard’s, and the original Frankie’s Place for Ribs. He also made his mark in Florida over the years with office buildings, restaurants and marinas, but it is the ongoing operation of the 15,000-acre Garcia Family Farm and the future plans for the Garcia Mining Company that kept him motivated and invigorated until the very end.
Looking toward the future, Eddie invested in alternative energy initiatives and solar and energy projects and played an instrumental role in effecting public policy change to promote and advance efforts for energy efficiency.
Over the years, Eddie received prestigious appointments by the Governor of Virginia to The Commonwealth Transportation Board and as Commissioner of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel Commission as well as appointment by the North Carolina Secretary of State to their State Business Advisory Council.
As a man who built a successful career for himself and was blessed with a large and loving family, he wanted to provide assistance to those in need. His ability to help others meant a great deal to him. He contributed funds, served on boards, provided entrepreneurial counsel and mentorship, and took an active role in the rehabilitation and employment of disabled and underprivileged individuals. People came to him from all walks of life, requesting his guidance or assistance in addressing their personal and professional problems, needing contributions, advances or pledges, all of which he has freely given to countless individuals. He instilled this same sense of service in his staff, encouraging them to reach out to help others and give of themselves as well. During his lifetime, he was always discreet about his level of giving as if disclosure would somehow diminish the significant level of good he had done. Some of his key charitable and community affiliations include: founding director and initial Chairman of the Board for Operation Smile, International; initial supporter of the Mother Seton House, now Seton Youth Shelters; providing the additional funds needed for the completion Tidewater Veteran’s Memorial and the Virginia Beach Disabled Veteran’s home; founding director of Citizen’s For Clean Energy; leading contributor to the Quality of Life Corporation’s Scholarship Initiative; founder and organizer of the Cystic Fibrosis LOVE4 Golf Tournament; member of the Board of Directors of the Philippine-American Foundation; involved in Crime Solvers, American Red Cross, and American Heart Association to name a few. In 1997, he received the 1997 Good Scout Award from Tidewater Council Boy Scouts of America in honor of personal and public contributions.
He continuously challenged himself and others both professionally and personally. Much of his success was due to his strong character, his sharp business mind and candid and outspoken behavior balanced by his subtle and sophisticated approach to building relationships. He believed there was no box to think beyond and always reached for the unreachable. He always said, “if it was easy, it would have already been done.” He led with intellect and instinct, concerned far more with the impact a business or development would have on the community than the simple dollars and cents.
Eddie lived his life with an unwavering commitment to his family—his wife Sandy, his children, his grandchildren and his great grandchildren—and his community as a whole. His work ethic, sense of service and deeply rooted family values remained steadfast.
His business was an extension of his beliefs, and we continue to operate The Garcia Companies based on the values and work ethic Eddie instilled in all of us.