Eloise Ross, the first lady of Blue Springs, died Wednesday morning after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Ross, the wife of Mayor Carson Ross for 49 years, had just turned 70 last month. Her husband, who dutifully cared for her and took her to civic and even some sporting events during her illness, said Eloise had self-diagnosed the beginning Alzheimer's 13 years ago.

“She was my soulmate for nearly 50 years, and there is a void in my life,” Carson said, calling her a “virtuous woman” who excelled in anything she did and always put family first.

“She was a beautiful lady inside and out.”

Eloise and Carson Ross met 50 years ago when both worked at Hallmark, and after they married had three daughters. In a 2010 story in The Examiner, Eloise said her father insisted she should marry a man from Arkansas, where her parents grew up, even though they lived in Kansas City. As it turned out, Carson also grew up in Arkansas. In 1977, she started working as a billing clerk with the city of Blue Springs – believed to be the city's first African-American employee.

Before Alzheimer's took its toll, people remember, Eloise had been full of life and vigor.

“Just a pure joy to be around,” said Don Lograsso, who served several years with Carson Ross in the Missouri House of Representatives and has served multiple terms as Blue Springs municipal judge. “She was an ideal pillar of the community and the foundation of the Ross family for all the years that I knew them.”

“From the day I met him, Carson was devoted to Eloise and gave her credit for straightening him out in his youth.”

Blue Springs Council Member Susan Culpepper remembers Eloise as “a very classy lady.”

“She was a great support to Carson, but she was a force in her own right,” Culpepper said. “She was very active in her church and loved to sing. Even during her illness she would hear music sometimes and she would start to sing along with the music.”

“Very funny, very bright. She had a wonderful spirit,” former council member and longtime country music radio host Dale Carter said. “She always gave me a look like she knew I was up to something.”

“She told me that she was a fan of my radio station, that she turned up the radio and sang along.”

Another common sentiment regarding Eloise has been Carson's devotion to her.

“Carson, he's been a Godsend for her,” Culpepper said.

Carter called it an “incredible job” how much Carson stood alongside her.

“No husband,” he said, “ever cared for a wife like Carson Ross cared for his.”

Jeanie Lauer, who has served in office in Blue Springs, then in the Missouri General Assembly and now in the Jackson County Legislature, underlined that as well.

“They truly were … the definition of a couple,” she said.

Lauer said she would attend some of the same conferences, and Eloise would usually be there too.

“She was just as engaged as everybody else,” she said.

“I think it was,” she said, “kind of the woman behind the man and the man behind the woman …”