Deacon called to Ground Zero after 9/11 attacks
Laura Theis grew up with Southern hospitality, and her Virginian roots influenced how she ministered to the elderly, infirm and less fortunate later in life, her son Frank Theis said.
“She was both proud of where she came from and who she was,” he said.
Laura Radford Yates Theis died of heart failure Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014. She was 75.
She grew up in Petersburg, Va., and met her late husband, Henry Ericsson Theis Sr., while he was serving in the Army at Fort Lee.
“They had a storybook, Disney wedding,” Frank Theis said. The pair, who were together 55 years, moved to several locations in the Northeast before settling in Sewickley in 1980.
At that time, his parents’ faith grew stronger, he said.
“They both really found a comfort and direction,” he said. Mrs. Theis had earned a degree from Bennett College in Millbrook, N.Y., and later graduated from Trinity School for Ministry and the Deacon Formation Program through the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh and was ordained as a vocational deacon in 1995.
Debby Frantti, director of pastoral care at St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Sewickley, said Mrs. Theis was passionate about her work, serving Communion to the congregation; visiting the homebound and those in nursing homes; and serving as a chaplain for more than 15 years at five hospitals.
Mrs. Theis also served as deacon at Shepherd’s Heart Anglican Church in the Uptown neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where the poor and homeless were drawn to her and her husband’s faith, the Rev. Mike Wurschmidt said.
“She was a true servant,” Wurschmidt said. “She had a great heart for teaching the Bible.”
Both Theises were called to minister at Ground Zero after 9/11 to pray over the injured and serve food to first-responders. Frank Theis recalled a photograph of his mother in a hard hat and her deacon’s cassock.
“The church put out a call for who can go and my parents said, ‘We can,’ ” he said.
The family will carry on that kindness to honor Mrs. Theis’ legacy, her son said.
“There are people less fortunate than us. No matter if it’s a dollar or a million dollars, you should be thankful for what you have,” he said.
She was predeceased by her husband, Henry Theis Sr. Surviving are four sons, Henry Ericsson “Eric” Jr. and wife, Kathya, of Portsmouth, Va., John Bolling and wife, Lisa, of Guilberland, N.Y., Frank Munford and John Paul,of Pottstown, and Peter Radford and wife, Alexis, of Sewickley; and seven grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 2 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday in Copeland’s Funeral Home in Sewickley. A memorial service is planned for 2:30 p.m. Sunday in St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Sewickley.
Memorial donations may be sent to St. Stephen’s Anglican Church, Shepherd’s Heart Anglican Church or Sewickley Public Library.
Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or [email protected].