Nancy and Jay Lazier: Two very busy and productive people

by | Jul 11, 2024 | Latest News

Growing up in Pittsburgh, Pa., Nancy and Jay Lazier did not cross paths, even though their mothers knew each other through Hadassah. Not until a Hillel mixer at University of Michigan, where Nancy was a freshman and Jay, a sophomore, did they meet. “We were too young to be serious, so we hung out for seven years,” Jay laughs. The Laziers have been married for 58 years.

Nancy graduated college with a degree in history and spent an extra year earning her teaching certificate. “In those days, women were teachers, nurses, or secretaries,” she says. With the birth control pill’s approval, the Vietnam War, and activism of the 1960’s, Nancy says, “It was a tremendous time to be in college,” especially for avid learners like the Laziers.

At Penn State, Nancy earned a master’s degree, and then the couple returned to Michigan where Jay started his doctorate at Michigan State and Nancy continued taking classes.

In 1970, they moved to Israel. During their time there, Jay completed his dissertation comparing social rehabilitation versus institutionalization in a population with mental illness. Plus, two of their three children were born. (Their oldest was born on the Rosh Hashanah prior to the Yom Kippur War.)

In 1975, a Michigan classmate suggested to the Laziers that they move to Virginia Beach, which was when they left Israel. “Our son was four and our daughter was two. Our youngest son was born in Virginia Beach,” says Nancy. 

At the time, Virginia Beach was starting mental health community services as part of a de-institutionalized movement. “Jay had the skills and knowledge to begin the programs,” Nancy says. Jay worked for the city of Virginia Beach for 37 years. 

With Nancy’s master’s degree in special education and a graduate program in linguistics behind her, she taught English as a second language. In Virginia Beach schools, Nancy taught special education for 32 years and worked with Russian immigrants through United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, teaching English to grandparents, parents, and children.

Even though their adult children and twin grandchildren (recent high school graduates) are scattered from Portland, Ore. to San Francisco to Brunswick, Md., Nancy and Jay are in close contact with them all. 

Jay and Nancy Lazier with family on his 80th birthday: Elani, Yoni, Benny, and Sammy.
Nancy and Jay Lazier on a bike trip in Thailand.

In retirement, Nancy and Jay are remarkably busy. Jay is a board member and past president of Hearts & Homes, a nonprofit providing homes for adults with developmental disabilities. At Ohef Sholom Temple, he sings in the choir, serves as chair of the worship committee and on the executive committee, and is responsible for innovating many things. 

Nancy sings in three choirs, (including at Ohef Sholom), paints, and stays active through tap dancing. “I made it a goal to get into a tap- dancing performance before reaching 80,” a birthday she celebrated in May. Currently recovering from foot surgery, she adds, “I’m not used to being immobile!”

Frequent travelers, Nancy and Jay spent three weeks in Sicily this year and last year travelled to the North Pole. Jay notes that they like to visit mikvahs when they travel; they even had a meal in Spain where the restaurant was built around a mikvah.

During COVID, Nancy started a zoom book club with six members that has grown to 20. “People have a need to be together,” she says. “The thing I like about this book club is that everyone reads the book!”

The Lazier home is a source of pride to Nancy and Jay, especially their garden. When building their house, Nancy took a class on landscape architecture at Norfolk Botanical Garden. 

“One challenge for people our age is to downsize or not,” Jay explains. “It would be hard to leave our garden.”

Reflecting on their senior status as two people in their 80’s, Jay says, “If you’re fortunate to feel good when you have the freedom. . . that’s the greatest gift.”