Remembering Eleanor Josaitis
by Victor Abla, Director, Lending and Portfolio Management, Detroit LISC
I am saddened to hear that Eleanor Josaitis passed away last night. Many people knew her better than I, but we all agreed that it seemed like her indomitable spirit could overcome anything. But even if that spirit couldn’t help her overcome cancer, she was an incredible person nonetheless who leaves us all a lasting legacy in the form of Focus:HOPE.
Anyone who founded as significant and impactful organization as Focus:HOPE could have had a huge ego. Instead, as Mitch Albom said, she had a huge heart, and she was always ready to help others.
Detroit LISC once brought in LISC’s Vice President on a tour of Detroit. Despite having no advance notice, Eleanor graciously visited with us for at least 30 minutes, doing her part to make our Vice President feel welcome to Detroit. I was also touched and humbled when she came across the room to specifically greet me, even calling me a “troublemaker” at least once. (I took it as a compliment!)
She had a tremendous sense of humor, as many who attended Focus:HOPE’s 40th anniversary dinner can attest. As she introduced her husband of more than 40 years, she cracked that most people thought she was a nun and were shocked to know she even had a husband! At the event, attendees received a Dominic Pangborn-designed tie or scarf with Focus:HOPE’s logo. I have received compliments on the tie every single time I’ve worn it, even from those who didn’t recognize the logo. Now, whenever I put it on, I will fondly recall the woman who helped co-found the organization.
This is a sad day for Focus:HOPE, for Eleanor’s family and friends, and for the city of Detroit, which she dedicated so much of her life to. We rightfully pause to mourn her loss today and keep her family in our thoughts and prayers. But we must also reflect on her tireless work for the city and commit to continuing that work. Because the legacy she leaves behind is one of dedication and service to the greater good, and it’s a legacy we can all continue to build upon together.