Elizabeth Alexander October 23, 2009 Elizabeth Alexander, 81, passed away Friday in Winter Park, Florida, surrounded by her adoring family. Elizabeth led a full life as a devoted wife and loving mother of four, a woman deeply committed to helping others in her professional career as a social worker, and a lover of books and poetry and cooking. She was a gentle soul who was cherished by family and friends for her wonderful ways, her thirst for knowledge and personal growth, and a passion for sharing life's simple pleasures and finer things. Born in Elmira, NY, the daughter of James E. and Mabel Strates, Elizabeth's father was a Greek immigrant of proud Spartan descent who came to America in 1909. He worked a number of odd jobs before joining a carnival as "Strangler Lewis," a wrestler taking on all challengers in the athletic arena. He went on to acquire his own athletic sideshow and carnival, and in 1932 founded the James E. Strates Shows. To this day Strates Shows is a family-run business and remains America's only railroad carnival. The young Miss Strates often traveled the eastern seaboard by train with her family and the show's caravan of hundreds of carnival workers and entertainers. Along the way she befriended people from all walks of life throughout small towns and big cities during the post-depression and World War II eras. Her early life experiences and caring spirit compelled her to pursue a lifelong career helping those in need. Elizabeth obtained her high school diploma from The Convent School in Syracuse at age 16 and earned a BA in English Literature from Vassar College and a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Buffalo. While working as a counselor with the Veterans Administration Hospital in Syracuse, she met her future husband, Lee Alexander, who was attending Syracuse University College of Law. Lee Alexander went on to become Mayor of the City of Syracuse for 16 years. As president of the US Conference of Mayors and founder of the National Conference of Democratic Mayors, her husband was known as a champion for America's cities and campaigned for urban issues on the state and federal level. Elizabeth maintained a private counseling practice as a psychiatric social worker in Syracuse and later moved to Albany where she earned an MA in criminal justice at SUNY Albany. She then launched a second career as a probation program consultant with the New York State Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives in Albany and Syracuse. She was a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers and the National Association of Social Workers. A deeply spiritual woman and an avid reader, Elizabeth cherished her family Bible and collections of British mystery novels, poetry and literary classics and her beloved cookbooks. Her ever-growing library was as legendary as her well-stocked kitchen and passion for cooking for loved ones and guests. Like the woman herself, Elizabeth's home and table always bore generous gifts of thoughtful caring and heartfelt understated elegance. Above all, Elizabeth will be remembered most for her dedication to her family and the joy she brought to their lives of all who knew her. She was predeceased by her husband, Lee, in 1996; and half-sister, Onalee Jones. Surviving to cherish her memory are her sons, James (Janet) Alexander of Syracuse and Matthew (Lorraine) Alexander of Jamesville; and daughters, Rita Alexander of Florida and Anastasia Alexander of the United Kingdom. She will be especially missed by her grandchildren, Francis and Clara, Jack and Lee, and Quentin and Alexia. Her passing is deeply mourned by her brother, E. James (Phyllis) Strates; sister, Theodora Strates; brother-in-law, Christ Steve (Josephine) Alexander; and sister-in-law, Elbenicky Alcott. Numerous nephews and nieces also grieve her passing. Calling hours will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at Farone & Son Funeral Home, 1500 Park Street, Syracuse. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Sophia's Greek Orthodox Church, 325 Waring Road, DeWitt. Burial will be private. Donations, in lieu of flowers may be made to Syracuse Habitat for Humanity, 308 Otisco Street, Syracuse, NY 13204. Dignity Memorial Please sign the guestbook at syracuse.com/obits
Published by Syracuse Post Standard on Oct. 29, 2009.