Elena Thoms passed away in the evening hours in Churchill, Manitoba Canada on Nov. 15, 2016.
Her last day was very special as she was fulfilling her bucket list goal of viewing polar bears in the wild. She and her son, Arthur were treated to seeing over 30 bears that day on the frozen tundra.
Elena was born Barbara Ellen Lebowitz on July 3, 1930.
Elena grew up in Brooklyn then moved to Belle Harbor, New York. She was the daughter of Louis Lebowitz and Beatrice Chasen. The Lebowitz and Chasen families came through Ellis Island about 1900 and settled in New York City. In the summer the family went to the Catskills often and she was exposed to music there.
She married Martin Bender in 1956 and moved to Chicago, then on to Los Angeles, where she raised her two children, Arthur Ian and Lon Ethan. She always loved gardening and spent many hours in her garden. She attended Goddard College and received a degree in Early Childhood Education. She was a teacher and then director of the Valley Beth Shalom Temple nursery school. After that, she was a full-time volunteer at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).
In 1974 Elena met Wayne Thoms, the two were married a year later. They became inseparable until Wayne passed away in 2015 in Anacortes, Washington. Wayne was a travel writer and pilot and the two of them traveled around the world seeking out new experiences and adventures.
After raising her sons in Studio City, Wayne and Elena moved to Palm Springs, where Elena played Mama Nona in a dinner theater. She remained an avid theatergoer throughout her life. They founded and ran ARP videos, which distributed World War II aviation videos. Upon retirement, they discovered and moved to Friday Harbor, Washington. Elena was very content there and never wanted to leave, except for the all-important Costco runs. They still traveled but spent more time with their friends on the Island. Elena became involved with the Friends of the Library and also taught English as a Second Language there.
She is remembered with love and affection by her sons Arthur Bender and his wife Peggy Bender and Lon Bender and his wife Heidi Bender.
She died the same way she lived her life, full of adventure and joy.