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Virginia Lazarus

On Friday, with a little time to kill, my daughter and I stopped by one of the many cemeteries clustered in our neighborhood.

Dispersed of Judah

I’d been in this one before, but I came through a different gate, so I had never seen the name “Dispersed of Judah.” I hadn’t noticed it was a Jewish cemetery, though several Hebrew headstones make that abundantly clear.


And I had not seen one particular monument, the tallest there, or taken heed of the story it tells.

Virginia Lazarus

This monument was erected in honor of a young woman named Virginia Lazarus.


The grief of her parents must have been tremendous. The river side of the monument bears the following inscription:

In cherished memory of our dearly beloved and precious daughter Virginia, who was called away in the fullness and freshness of her glorious young life on October 27th, 1897, aged 18 years 11 months.

Her nobility of character endeared her to everyone. Her presence filled our home with sunshine. Her absence leaves it in impenetrable gloom. Our weeping hearts yield her the tribute of eternal grief.

But there is more to the story. Her father is commemorated on the uptown side of the monument.

In cherished memory of my dearly beloved husband Henry L. Lazarus, who passed away on Nov. 2, 1917, aged 64 years.

A native of Syracuse, N.Y., but a resident of this city from boyhood, he was an eminent lawyer, an upright, God-fearing man, a devoted husband, father and son, a staunch and loyal friend.

If everyone to whom he lent a helping hand should bring a blossom to his grave he would sleep beneath a wilderness of flowers.

That loving inscription was obviously written by his wife, Virginia’s mother. She is commemorated on the downtown side of the monument.

Sallie Solomon,
beloved wife of Henry L. Lazarus
July 13, 1853 — May 28, 1931

It would seem that when she passed away, there was no one left to memorialize her. No fancy inscription — just her dates of birth and death.

I was already moved to tears. Then I saw the lake side of the monument, and I learned that they also suffered the loss of three infant children, one in 1876, one in 1877, and one in 1885 who lived for nine days. Virginia must have been born in 1878. After that I was devastated and amazed. So much love, so much pain. I never knew a stone marker could convey such sadness.

There’s a row of small stones placed on the front of the monument that suggest I’m not the only one who has come and read these inscriptions.

I think I may have hugged my daughter a little tighter than usual after that.


Later, I did a little internet research. It seems there is a Virginia Lazarus memorial scholarship at LSU. Could it be the same person? I don’t think so — turns out it’s actually the Adrian Virginia Lazarus scholarship. That name led me to a recent obituary:

Beverly Albert Lazarus March 3, 1926 – August 28, 2010 • Beverly died on Saturday, August 28, 2010 at Chateau de Notre Dame. She was born in New York to the late Abraham and Lilly Albert. She attended Brooklyn College and worked in the retail business as a buyer for A&S Department Stores. Beverly was married to the late Eldon Spencer Lazarus, Jr. for 54 years living in New Orleans. She easily acclimated herself to the New Orleans lifestyle and loved to show her southern hospitality. In New Orleans Beverly was the buyer for Gus Mayer’s Children Department and Godchaux’s Department Store. She was preceded in death by her beloved daughter Adrian Virginia Lazarus, and her brother Henry David Albert.

Note that last sentence. That makes two daughters who passed away before their mothers here in New Orleans — both named Virginia Lazarus. What are the chances?

If any relatives read this, please know that you have my deepest sympathies.

Update: My old high school friend Georgie, who does genealogy for fun, tells me that indeed, the latter Virginia is related to the former. Virginia (1878-1897) had a brother Eldon Spencer Lazarus Sr who had a daughter in 1908, who was also named Virginia Lazarus. He also had a son, Eldon Jr, and Eldon Jr had a daughter named Adrian Virginia Lazarus. Apparently all three daughters died before their mothers. That is heartbreaking.

Also I have to note that I am currently in the middle of reading “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang which seems to be about a mother who outlives her daughter. Coincidence? I certainly hope so…

Published inNew OrleansPix


  1. […] to the local graveyards, which led me to contemplate the untimely demise of a young woman named Virginia. I even started actively searching for certain graves. And generally I have just been enjoying the […]

  2. Stanley Feldman Stanley Feldman

    Virginia was my friend when I was a student at Tulane in the 1970’s. I started traveling back to New Orleans in 1998, the year my son started college in New Orleans. Although Virginia and I lost touch, I never forgot her. Virginia was witty, bright, kind and had beautiful red hair. She lived on Octavia Street where I was a dinner guest in her home. If I remember correctly, Virginia went to Newman. I don’t know where she went to college.

    At some point during my son’s college years, I called the Lazarus residence and I believe I spoke to Virginia’s mother. I explained that I was just an old friend calling to say hello. Her mother told me that she had died, information that has haunted me ever since. Since 1998, I have been visiting New Orleans on a regular basis. Without exception, every time I see an “Octavia” street sign, I think about my friend Virginia Lazarus. Like so many other things, I regret that I did not stay in touch.

  3. Janice Da Janice Da

    I was also a friend of Virginia’s and went to LSU with her in the late 1970’s.
    She was a great friend, full of life, infectious energy and wit. Although she did not make anyone aware of it, she had lupus. From what I understood after her death, she had decided that she was going to lead her life the way she wanted rather than kowtow to the disease. To that end she lived everyday to the fullest and died in her middle 20’s of pneumonia while working in Dallas after college. I still think of her too–

  4. Emily Gilman Emily Gilman

    Your posts are very accurate and observant regarding Virginia Lazarus(1956-1981). She was, indeed, a lovely and vivacious woman who died from complications of lupus, as a prior responder mentions. She was so smart that she graduated one year early from Newman School and went to LSU and majored in computer science. Who knew what that was back in the 70’s? She went to work for IDS in Dallas and succumbed to pneumonia on business trip. She was one of my dearest friends throughout high school and college. I subsequently named my first child for her with Virginia as her middle name. She was so full of life and good humor, qualities which are now very much my own daughter’s trademarks. We loved Virginia Lazarus and miss her.

  5. Lisa Rose Lisa Rose

    Wow, this is really kind of surreal for me. I was Virginia’s first cousin, once-removed. She and I were the same age, and we were very close despite our geographical distance – she, living in New Orleans and I in New York. There were many visits back and forth between NOLA and NY over the years. She, my sister and I went to camp together one summer, and she even came to visit around my High School graduation time, and instantly got invited to my Sr. High School Prom! She was the Belle of the Ball! Indeed, she was a wonderful, vivacious and beautiful person. She had a great sense of humor, loved to laugh and cause mischief. Her eyes sparked, and she was rarely seen without a wide smile on her face.

    I miss her a great deal. She died way too early, and her parents were never the same afterwards. As an interesting and strange phenomenon … there was a an ancestor of hers (and mine) – the “original” Virginia Lazarus who died in her teens, and my grandmother, the second Virginia Lazarus who died prematurely in her 40’s. It is heartwarming to hear that others remember her so fondly.

  6. Anonymous Anonymous

    Virginia was my “little sister” at LSU, where we were members of AEPhi. Virginia was always a hellraiser. She was upset that she couldn’t get a bid from other sororities because very few Jewish women were offered that opportunity. AEPhi was the only “Jewish” sorority. While she was active, she became particularly involved in the Panhellenic Council and worked to be an integral part of it. I was several years older than she and graduated a couple of years before she did. We keep in touch, but after she began working, I stopped hearing from her. When I got engaged in 1980, I was planning to ask her to my wedding, but she passed away. I was told she died of as Lupus while on a business trip to California. Virginia never told any of us she suffered from Lupus. It was a time when eating disorders were a subject of interest as that topic was relatively new. I remember Virginia leading everyone to believe that was the cause of her weight loss and sometimes illness (it was obviously Lupus). Despite her medical problems, she was a force to be reckoned with. Opinionated, funny, smart, and loyal. I have some things she gave to me which I treasure. I have carried memories of her with me
    In fact, the way I found this post, was I googled her name, wondering if I would find mention of her. The scholarship was established by her parents after her death. May her memory continue to be a blessing ♡

  7. Virginia Rich Lee Virginia Rich Lee

    Thank you for this. Your post led me to pay a visit to the cemetery the last time I was in New Orleans. What a beautiful tribute that monument is. I am the great-granddaughter of Spencer Lazarus, Sr. My name is also Virginia, as I am named after my grandmother, his daughter, whom I never met. I did know and love my cousin Virginia (technically 1st cousin once removed, but only a few years older than I. ) She would spend long stretches of time with us in the summers when I was very young and I treasure those memories. I was heartbroken when she passed away. My aunt was also named Virginia after her mother, so there have been quite a few of us sprinkled throughout this family tree; however, the name, to my knowledge, has not been passed down to a new generation in our family since the early sixties…

  8. Lovely post, which I’m just reading 13 years later. I visit cemeteries and am trying to find more details about the Biginia Lazarus of Dispersed of Judah. I stumbled upon your post and much appreciate that you took the time to transcribe the inscriptions on all sides of the memorial. Thank you!

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