Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Feitelson_LeeLee Feitelson

Honored October, 2010

Leonora 'Lee' Feitelson

“She cares about people, her community, our country, and the world. She has never met a stranger.” “Her indomitable spirit, awe-inspiring curiosity, and abiding interest in the world drive her forward.” These are the hallmarks of Lee Feitelson, a beloved friend to many, always ready with a smile and a helping hand. When she senses a need, she steps in to fill it.
Since retiring to Santa Fe in 1980, Lee has plunged into volunteer work, embracing her chosen community. Her involvements have been inspired by a passion for music, love of travel and the outdoors, as well as compassion for people in need.

Lee Feitelson grew up in Waterbury, Connecticut, in a loving family that taught her to care about others. Her mother died when Lee was only five years old. Then she, her younger brother, and father moved into her grandparent’s home. Among her extended family were relatives with disabilities. The family pulled together during the Depression, and despite financial hardships, helped others less fortunate. When Lee’s father became ill, she cared for him in the last years of his life. She never forgot those lessons of service, compassion, and responsibility.

Lee’s family highly valued education. She loved learning and studied practical secretarial skills to help her father support the family. Her first job was in the employment office of the state of Connecticut where she helped find jobs for WWII veterans, disabled people, and youth. Later she worked her way through college to earn a teaching degree. Lee taught for 25 years in Connecticut schools.

Lee’s high energy and dedication have enriched many local organizations: the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Kitchen Angels, the Lensic Theater, the Santa Fe Opera, Esperanza Shelter, Literacy Volunteers, American Cancer Society, and the Adaptive Ski Program.

She works both behind the scenes and on the front lines—wherever she can help. She has done bookkeeping, stocked shelves, delivered meals, organized volunteers, raised funds, driven musicians to and from the Albuquerque airport, ushered at performances, and driven cancer patients to medical visits.

“Lee Feitelson is a role model for what to do with one’s life after retirement,” one admirer proclaimed. “She has been selfless; always with that smiling face and happy attitude.” “She shows us that we can remain vital and vibrant and connected to community no matter how old we are.” “Lee’s generosity of spirit helps keep Santa Fe vibrant.”

Story by Barbara Harrelson

Photo © 2010 by Genevieve Russell