After more than three decades of service to the parish of Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Church and its school, Elsa Reus is retiring at the end of June.
Reus, 70, is also well- known in Miami Lakes for her ongoing duties as a volunteer and past officer with the Miami Lakes Chamber of Commerce and with the Town of Miami Lakes’ Cultural Affairs Committee.
“I love Miami Lakes,” said Reus, of Hialeah Gardens. She lived much of her life with her family in the Country Club neighborhood.
“I think the town is doing a great job and is moving in the right direction.”
The town proclaimed April 13, 2019 “Elsa Reus Day” for her work in the community, the same year she received Our Lady
of the Lakes Catholic Church’s Lifetime Achievement Award for over 30 years of service as an employee and volunteer.
Rues’ journey in South Florida began in 1961.
She was 10 years old and her brother Luciano was 11 when they flew aboard one of the
Pedro Pan flights carrying children from Havana to Miami to escape the aftermath of Cuba’s Communist Revolution.
The siblings were met at Miami International Airport by their grandparents and an aunt.
Their parents joined them in Florida seven months later.
“It was a very special time for us but difficult times for all of us,” she said. “But this nation is great, they took us in, and we thank them for that.”
Reus graduated from Notre Dame Academy and left Miami Dade Community College to work for the U.S. Customs Service as an assistant in the public relations office, where she also translated for federal agents.
“Boy, do I have stories!” Reus said.
She married Manny Reus in 1972 and they lived in Hialeah, then in homes he built in Country Club, where they raised son Danny and daughter Madelyn.
While working as a travel agent, Reus volunteered as vice president of Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic School’s Home and School Association, its version of the Parent Teacher Association.
She ran the annual children’s fashion show and galas to raise money for students’ tuition and school expenses and edited the school yearbook.
Reus’ biggest continuing project is the annual Our Lady of the Lakes Spring Festival, held for more than four decades.
She chairs an executive committee that oversees sponsorships and said it raised a church and school record -- $105,000 -- from 190 sponsors in 2020. The funds typically are spent on building repairs, she said.
She has worked with
the three most recent parish leaders: The late Father James Murphy, who hired her in 1998; Father Jose Alvarez, who added director of community relations for the church, school and alumni association to her duties, and the current administrator, Father Flavio Montes.
Alvarez said he’s known Reus since he was 6 years old, as she was a friend of his older sister.
“She has always been charming, enthusiastic and full of life,” said Alvarez, the pastor from 2011 to 2019.
“She certainly brought those qualities to her service at Our Lady of the Lakes Church and School, and the parish and school are all better thanks to her passion and exceptional work and development,” he said.
Montes called Reus “an asset” and “effective.”
“She has been dedicated and very enthusiastic in her day-to-day operations and responsibilities, something that comes natural to her,” Montes said.
“We could go on and on enumerating all her good attributes and achievements, but we will high- light that she has been and will continue to be a pillar in this community of faith and in the school, as well as in the [town] of Miami Lakes.
“We are glad to know that now she will have the opportunity to enjoy her most valuable treasure: Her beloved family,” Montes said.
Students and faculty brought Reus to tears on June 3rd with a surprise retirement party in the school’s rosary garden. She received flowers and artwork by students.
“That’s how emotional I got,” she said. “I cried like crazy. It was a special day and I love them for that.”
Seeing relatives die in 2020 before they reached her age prompted Reus to retire, she said.
“I realized that it’s time to see more of my family and travel to places and visit friends,” Reus said. “I now want that flexibility to do all those things.”
Reus says she is amicably divorced.
She will visit with son Danny Reus, 41, in South Miami and his two children, Dylan, 11, and Ava, 9, and daughter Madelyn Martinez, 33, and her husband Ricky Martinez, and their daughters Sofia, 4, and Carolina, 18 months, in Atlanta.
She will also hit the road with her high school friends, “The Golden Girls.”
“Possibly to go leaf peeping in New England, and to the Canadian Rockies,” Reus said.
Though she’s leaving the 9-to-5 routine behind, Reus said she’ll continue to be an active volunteer.
“I plan to stay involved because I love to serve the community,” Reus said.