Helen Liacouras Lambros, surrounded by love, passed away peacefully. She led an incredibly full life of nearly 98 years. She was born to Greek immigrants James and Stella Lagakos Liacouras on August 15, 1923, in Philadelphia, PA.
Helen was forever rooted by the ideals instilled by her parents and a robust family of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Her upbringing in the Philadelphia Greek community had an indelible impact on her life.
From an early age, she was drawn to music, dance, education, and the church, all aided by a thirst to tackle whatever the world had to offer. Many of her cousins were musical and got together frequently to play. She recounts these memories as among the happiest of her life. “We entertained everyone,” she would say, referring to how music brought her family and community close together. Helen embraced each day with a spirit and vigor like nobody else. She had a larger-than-life personality and seemingly infinite energy, creativity, and resolve to make projects, productions, and programs succeed.
Following graduation from Philadelphia public schools, Helen attended Beaver College, now known as Arcadia University in Glenside, PA. She regularly credited her parents for their courage in allowing her to attend school away from home, which was unusual for a Greek American girl at the time. She soared in college, focusing on Music, English, and Spanish. She became the student conductor of the 100-voice glee club and acted in various plays. She composed the hymn that was performed at the college’s graduation – an early example of firmly putting her thumbprint on a production.
She then taught English and Music at Thomas Junior High School in South Philadelphia. During that period, she also started the first Hellenic University Choral Group. The organization of dozens of music and choral groups would follow during her lifetime. In 1947, she married neurosurgeon Vasilios S. Lambros, and they settled in Washington D.C.
Helen continued her love of dance by studying under Martha Graham. She became involved in fundraising, using her musical and theatrical experience to raise support for children through the Chevy Chase Junior Women’s Club. She also became the musical director at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Washington D.C. Most notably, her choir was invited to sing at President Eisenhower’s Inaugural Banquet in 1956. In 1962, the Lambroses and their children Val, Eleni, and Damian relocated to Los Angeles, CA. As usual, Helen dove in and became the music teacher at St. Anthony Sunday School. Helen gave piano lessons in her home on Allen Avenue.
The house was always bustling with activity. Helen was constantly planning events, writing plays, cooking, and producing musical soirées featuring terrific musicians and singers, often with Helen at the piano. One of her greatest productions was her own 95th birthday celebration.
In 1965, she joined Footlighters, a philanthropic organization that raised millions of dollars for underprivileged children’s services in Los Angeles. Helen was involved for 35 years serving in various roles, including Ball Chairman, Production Chairman, and in 1978 she served as President. She made lifetime friends and memories. Any initiatives that combined the church and music were her forte. In 1973, she wrote “Holidays in Greece,” which was presented at the Wilshire Ebell Theater. A few years later, her bicentennial musical show combined both St. Anthony and St. Sophia junior choirs for a grand performance at the annual Mother’s Day luncheon. She originated, directed, and produced the present form of the St. Sophia Philoptochos Debutante Ball. A favorite production was “The Contosbury Tales,” presented in honor of Fr. Leon Contos, former pastor of St. Sophia Cathedral.
Helen was regularly sought out to lead projects for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. She was a lifetime member of Saint Sophia Cathedral. Archbishop Lakovos appointed her to the National Philoptochos Board. She was a founder and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. She was a driving force behind the initial Greek Folk Dance Festivals and the Church’s Rite of Commitment ceremonies. The list of initiatives and achievements is endless.
Helen loved theatre. She joined the Michael Shurtleff Acting classes for “fun,” which led to her Theater Geo days, allowing her to continue to act on stage, film, and television. She appeared in various films such as “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “The Morning After,” “Purple Hearts,” and “Fives Aces.” On television, her appearances included “NYPD Blues,” “Perfect Strangers,” “Parole Board,” “Simon and Simon,” and “You are the Jury.” Her stage work favorites were “Spirit Your Wife Away to The Woods,” “Romantic Comedy,” “Family Voices,” “Cheaters,” “Picnic,” “A View from The Bridge,” and “Lemonade.” She was most proud of her own granddaughter, Lucia, who is following in her footsteps.
Helen was recognized repeatedly for her tireless efforts to support the arts, music, and Orthodox faith. In 1989, she was honored as Mother of the Year by the St. Sophia Philoptochos Society. In 1998, she received the Humanitarian Award from the Greek Folk Dance Festival. In 2005, she received the Elios Cultural Achievement Award, which is awarded to a person who has demonstrated the love of youth, culture, and the principles of the Greek Orthodox Faith. No award could have been more fitting.
Hundreds of family members, friends, and young people benefitted from Helen’s encouragement to “SHOW UP AND SAY ‘YES'” as she would say. She celebrated young people and was a mentor to so many throughout her life. She believed in discovering and bringing any young Greek artist to the public’s attention and creating events to showcase their talents. This included singers, dancers, actors, painters, and conductors. She established the Lambros Music and Fine Arts endowment to continue this support in perpetuity.
Helen was simply a remarkable person who was a tireless advocate of others. She was in your corner. A teacher of life. She served the church, community, youth, and the arts with love, grace, and dignity.
Helen cared deeply for her friends and family, both immediate and extended, and stayed in touch with so many through her last days. Her iPhone was always close by. She would use it to cheer on everyone and was better at sending emails and texts than people 60 years younger. She leaves behind an incredible group of fans who will miss her dearly.
She was predeceased by her parents, her husband, Dr. Vasilios Lambros, her sister, Vilma Liacouras Chantiles, and her brother, Peter Liacouras. She is survived by her children Val Lambros M.D. (Deborah), Eleni V. Lambros, Damian V. Lambros (Marcella), and precious granddaughter Lucia. She is also survived by her dear sister, Aliki (Franz Brandenberg), and numerous nieces and nephews.
Funeral services will be held on Saturday, July 24 at 11:00 am, at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 1324 Normandie, Los Angeles, CA. Please join the family immediately thereafter for the Makaria.