Doamnă Preoteasa Eleonora Lazăr, 96, fell asleep in the Lord peacefully on Monday, August 15, 2011—the Great Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God—at the Manor Nursing Center here.
Born in Sharon, PA on November 7, 1914 to Ioan and Anna Banceu, Orthodox emigrants from Romania, she had two sisters—her twin Elizabeth, and Victoria—and a brother, Aurel. She was a 1932 graduate of Newton Falls (OH) High School and, later, Warren Business College.
On July 1, 1939, she married the theological graduate, Eugene Lazăr of Youngstown, OH, who was ordained to the priesthood three days later by Bishop Polycarp [Moruşca] at Vatra Românească. The Lazars were blessed with two children, Eugenia (Dr. Virgil) Tirmonia of Canton, OH, and Archpriest Laurence (Preoteasa Anita) Lazăr of Southfield, MI, six grandchildren and six great-granchildren.
Preoteasa and Father Eugene, a most beloved priest of the Orthodox Church in America’s Romanian Episcopate who fell asleep in 1978, served Saint Stefan Church, South Saint Paul, MN; Holy Trinity Church, Detroit, MI; the Descent of the Holy Ghost Church, Gary, IN; the Presentation of Our Lord Church, Akron, OH; and Holy Trinity Church, Youngstown, OH.
As Saint Paul wrote in his Letter to the Romans 12:6, “We each have different gifts according to the grace [God] gives us.” Thankfully, throughout Preoteasa’s life, the grace given her became a gift for many others. She was part of that very small, dedicated generation of pioneers in parish religious education who established Saturday or Sunday Church Schools. She adapted, translated or created the appropriate lessons for which Orthodox material, especially in English, was extremely rare. She taught the teachers and the children in tiny church basements and whole school buildings. For her efforts, the Holy Synod of Bishops expressed its appreciation in 1996.
With Father Eugene, she coordinated parish programs for children, teens and young married couples; organized Romanian cultural groups and events; taught the Romanian language; chaired banquets and bazaars; and sang in the choir. She often was elected President of the Ladies Auxiliary and served on their national board (ARFORA).
In her private life, she gave an example of charity, always sharing what little the family may have had. Beggars, who often came to the parish house, never went away hungry and never without hearing her say, “God be with you.” She chaired Folk Festivals of the International Institute, served as a volunteer for the International American Red Cross, and counseled bereaved families as a hospital volunteer. For a period of time, and in spite of being so petite, she was employed by the county as a live-in counselor and monitor of combative and, at times, dangerous juvenile delinquents.
In the 1950’s, Archbishop Valerian [Trifa] chose her to serve as Director of Camp Vatra. Working with him, and later with Archbishop Nathaniel, became her most beloved ministry for over 25 years. She wrote the menus, ordered the food, taught classes, served as the nurse, and wiped away the tears and hugged away the loneliness of many a child. Every summer, she was the “little mother” of up to 70 campers, as well as their teachers and staff, who cherish wonderful memories of her.
For nearly a century, the unassuming Maica Preoteasa Eleonora committed herself to a life of sacrifice and service, and proved to be a gift to the whole Church. As another priest’s wife said of her, “I learned much from her - patience, perseverance and unconditional love. She taught me much by her example.” She was a strong and holy helper of her priest and husband; a loving mother blessed to see her children’s children; and, as Holy Scripture says, “a virtuous woman” who touched the lives of many in the parishes and diocese, always giving thanks to the Lord for the gifts with which she had been blessed, and urging others - especially the children - to do the same in their lives.
Visitation will be held at Saint George Cathedral, 18405 West Nine Mile Road, Southfield, MI, on Wednesday, August 17, with services at 7:30 p.m. The Funeral and Pomana will be held Thursday, August 18, at 10:00 a.m., followed by interment at Vatra Românească.
May Doamnă Preoteasa Eleonora’s memory be eternal!