Aida Garcia, who went from an outpatient registrar at NYC’s Roosevelt Hospital to help build 1199’s 70,000 member-strong Homecare Division as its Executive Vice President, was cheered and honored by an outpouring of love from co-workers, colleagues, family and friends at a retirement party at the union’s midtown Manhattan conference center on January 26.

Aida’s close coworker, 1199 Homecare Vice President Rona Shapiro, told the crowd of how, after 12 years at Roosevelt, Aida became a stalwart of the rank-and-file “Save Our Union” movement that rescued 1199 from turmoil and potential destruction 25 years ago. When the “Save Our Union “ slate took over the union leadership in 1986, former 1199SEIU President Dennis Rivera—another “Save Our Union” leader—asked Garcia and Shapiro to be in charge of home care, an industry neither knew anything about, as Garcia remembered, “our homecare workers reminded us on a regular basis in those days.”

But in the next quarter-century, Aida and her team built a division of 70,000 home attendants, home health aides, homemakers and other who, though the poorest-paid 1199ers, are perhaps its hardest-working and most dedicated union members.

The evening featured an open microphone as dozens of Aida’s co-workers paid tribute to her bravery and absolute commitment to her members. She concluded her own remarks with a charge to the union’s Homecare Division staff to, “Always protect our homecare workers!”

Besides union members and staff, the party was joined—and storied memories of Aida told—by family members and old neighborhood friends, trustees of the various 1199 homecare funds Garcia co-chaired, and officers of the National Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) and its NYC chapter, both of which she helped to lead.

In addition to a revolving slide show of highlights of Aida’s many contributions, the party watched videotaped tributes from Dennis Rivera, 1199SEIU President George Gresham, Secretary-Treasurer Maria Castaneda and EVP John Reid, who could not be present because of their attendance at an SEIU board meeting in New Orleans.