8 September 2012 • By Deborah (Malacky) Belonick
On the evening of September 7, 2012, while the seminary community celebrated the Vigil for the Prefeast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, Ann Holod Zinzel, retired administrative secretary at St. Vladimir's, reposed in the Lord at White Plains Hospital, White Plains, New York. Prior to the Vigil service, in the late afternoon, Mrs. Zinzel was taken by emergency vehicle to the hospital from her home, where she had suffered a fall. She was initialy accompanied to the hospital by seminary Librarian Eleana Silk, a long-time friend, where she seemingly stablized but then later suffered from complicatons and died unexpectedly at 7:20 p.m. The cause of death was a pulmonary embolism. She was 86 years old; she would have celebrated her 87th birthday on September 18th.
Mrs. Zinzel—born in 1925 and raised in Olyphant, Pennsylvania—served as administrative secretary at the seminary for 29 years, from 1962 to 1991, and as personal secretary to Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann, dean of St. Vladimir's (1962–1983). During her tenure, she was known for her ability in taking short hand, and for her transcription of Fr. Alexander's handwritten and dictated notes to typewritten pages. She often spoke of her employment at the seminary as "a miracle."
At a SVOTS Alumni Association Reunion Banquet held in October 2007 in her honor, she recounted the story of her coming to St. Vladimir's: "I had met Father John Meyendorff, who then taught church history at the seminary, on an occasion in Washington, D.C.," she began. "I had been asked to take him to dinner before a lecture he was to give to the Nation's Capital 'R' Club, so that he would not have to arrive alone. During the meal he asked me: 'How is work?'.
"I had just been informed that I was being 'downsized'," she continued. "I commented that I had worked for Catholics, Protestants, and Jews. 'It would be good if I could get a job with the Orthodox,' I had joked.
"It was at that time," she recalled, "that St. Vladimir's was moving to Crestwood, New York (from New York City) and the Provost, beloved Professor Serge Verhovskoy, thought the seminary 'might need a secretary, at least temporarily'! I applied and the rest is history—of which you all played a tremendous role and for which I now thank you sincerely."
Seminary alumni will miss hearing from "Ann Zinzel" (often said as one complete name) through her myriad e-mail posts. The seminary community, from the very young to the very old, will remember her as a faithful member of Three Hierarchs Chapel, where she occupied the same chair day after day, year after year, singing along with the full text of each service in hand, and reaching out to give the children in chapel "bear hugs" and prosphora (blessed bread)—which she also bestowed abundantly on adults, especially visiting alumni.
When our chapel community henceforth looks at Ann Zinzel's empty chair at matins, vespers, and on feastdays, we will remember her and her devotion to her saint, Anna the Prophetess, her dedication to the seminary and multitudinous stories of yesteryear, and the gazillion bear hugs she so freely and lovingly gave. Memory Eternal!
At the Divine Liturgy for the feast this morning, His Grace Bishop John (Abdalah) of the Self-Ruled Antochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, as visiting and presiding hierarch, remembered the Handmaiden of God Ann in his sermon and also served the first memorial service for her. Bishop John holds a Master of Divinity degree from St. Vladimir's, and was a seminarian during Mrs. Zinzel's tenure as secretary.