Elizabeth B. Lambros died of natural causes at the age of 88 on Monday, August 19, at Montgomery Rehab and Nursing in Montgomery, West Virginia, where she spent the last six weeks of her life.
Elizabeth Louise Burch—“Betty” to family and friends—was born on March 7, 1931, in Denver, Colorado, to Hobart A. and Margaret L. Burch. Her birth proved wrong the doctor who had told her parents they would not be able to have children, as did the subsequent births of her four dear siblings, Hobart (“Hobe”), Margaret (“Mugsie”), Linda, and Coralee.
Betty spent most of her childhood in Elmira, New York, where her father worked as a radiologist at St. Joseph’s Hospital. She had many vivid memories of her youth in Elmira: cultivating a Victory garden during World War II; the flooding of the Chemung River in 1946; and the closing of public pools during summer polio epidemics. Betty grew up in a wonderful home not so different from the one depicted in Frank Capra’s 1938 “You Can’t Take It With You”– in fact, the family staged its own surprise re-enactment of this when Hobe brought his fiancée home to meet his family (she married him anyway). Music was central to family life—her father played the violin and her mother was a gifted singer—and the family often sang together around the piano. It was a household in which lively conversation and humorous banter were ever-present—extroverts outnumbered introverts in the Burch home. All of this helped shape the person Betty became—energetic, optimistic, funny, family-oriented, and a lover of music.
Betty graduated from Elmira Free Academy in 1948, where she received the French prize. In later years she insisted with typical self-deprecation that all she remembered of French was “Le drapeau français est bleu, blanc, et rouge” (“The French flag is blue, white, and red”). Betty went on to Wellesley College, from which she graduated in 1952 with a major in History—a subject that remained a lifelong interest. Although it took her some time to adjust to the rigors of college (she enjoyed describing how in her first semester she knitted during class instead of taking notes), she was always proud to have attended a top women’s college.
After a year of working for the East Harlem Protestant Parish, she enrolled at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, where she was one of only a handful of female students seeking to become Presbyterian ministers. Here she met fellow student Robert Christ, who was selling a Hebrew dictionary that she needed for coursework. Within a few weeks they were engaged, and they married in May 1954. Betty left seminary to join Bob, who was starting at his first job as minister at Seventh Presbyterian Church in Chicago’s Gresham neighborhood.
Betty was immediately busy in her new role as “minister’s wife”—an unpaid and demanding office—and joined Bob in the years that followed in working for the harmonious integration of Gresham, and in participating in the civil rights movement. Much of her time, however, was devoted to raising her three children, Coralee, Audrey, and Matthew. Betty was a truly kind and dedicated mother, who imparted her joie de vivre to her children. She was a tireless advocate for them and sought to enrich their lives with frequent trips to libraries and museums and engaging activities at home. After Betty and Bob acquired a humble cottage in Harbert, Michigan, near Lake Michigan in the early 1960s, she and the children spent every summer there (Bob joined them on weekends), enjoying the woods, the lake, and the wonderful communal life of nearby Camp Hazelhurst of the Chicago Prairie Club. Betty loved to watch sunsets over the lake and storms crossing the lake from Chicago, and relished the clear view of the stars in the night sky.
After her youngest child started school, Betty began working as a substitute teacher and librarian in the Chicago Public Schools. The money she earned in these and later jobs helped make it possible for her children eventually to attend Morgan Park Academy and to go to private colleges. Betty always managed the family’s finances adeptly and found ways to stretch limited resources to cover whatever was needed; she regularly made clothes for her daughters, and saved money throughout the year so there would be nice presents for the children at Christmas.
After living for two years in Morgan Park near the children’s school there, Betty’s family relocated in 1973 to Wheaton, Illinois, where Bob became one of the ministers at First Presbyterian Church. Betty initially worked in Wheaton as a substitute teacher and librarian, but soon joined the Wheaton College Suzuki Program, where she served many years as an administrator. The job was an excellent fit for her: she was a natural organizer, had strong people skills, and loved the violin, which she had begun to study.
When Betty and Bob separated amicably in the late 1980s, she went to Morgantown, West Virginia, to attend West Virginia University in pursuit of an M.A. in Social Work. On completing her degree, she married her longtime friend John Lambros, and moved to Charleston, West Virginia, where he was first violinist and concertmaster for the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra. Betty and John had been married for 28 years when he died in 2016 at the age of 98. Their years together were very happy and busy ones. Betty worked for several years as a social worker, and then joined John as a music instructor in their home, teaching piano and violin. Betty and John enjoyed the constant flow of students, young and old alike, through their home, and formed strong bonds with many of their students and their families. When they were not teaching or attending musical performances, they enjoyed visiting nature preserves and sampling the free food available on Saturdays at Sam’s Club.
Betty was a member of First Presbyterian Church in Charleston, where she cherished attending the Wednesday night Contemplative Prayer Group for over 20 years. She also enjoyed attending the First Church of Christ, Scientist with her husband John. Betty was very open minded in her spiritual life, and was glad to be part of both communities. Betty’s strong lifelong interest in spirituality was also shown through her many years of involvement in the Jungian-based Ira Progoff Intensive Journal system; her completion of a 3-year Associate Spiritual Director program in 2004; and her deep interest in the writings and seminars of Irish priest Diarmuid O’Murchu, author of “Quantum Theology, Spiritual Implications of the New Physics”. Betty and a friend organized bringing O’Murchu to Charleston about 12 years ago, where he gave a weekend workshop.
Although Betty faced cognitive and physical challenges in her last years, she managed to stay in her own home until early April of this year thanks to the loving support and assistance of her daughter Coralee and the Visiting Angels caregivers. Even in adversity, Betty maintained her grace and wit. Those who knew her will cherish their memories of this beautiful human being.
Betty was predeceased by her parents; her brother Hobe and sister Coralee; her daughter Audrey Christ Farley; and her two husbands, Robert Christ and John Lambros. Her survivors include her sisters Mugsie and Linda; her daughter Coralee Christ and son Matthew Christ; her grandchildren Maggie Christ, Miranda Christ, Helen Christ, Becca Farley David, Ben Farley, and Brie Farley; her great-granddaughter Eloise Audrey David; and many nieces, nephews, grand-nieces, and grand-nephews.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, October 5th, at 2:00 p.m., at First Presbyterian Church, 16 Leon Sullivan Way, Charleston, WV, 25301. The service will be in the Chapel behind the main sanctuary.
Condolences can be made on the Barlow Bonsall Funeral Home website, www.barlowbonsall.com, or by mail to: Elizabeth Lambros Family, PO Box 1749, Charleston, WV 25326.