Cover photo for Zoe Eleftherio's Obituary
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1930 Zoe Eleftherio 2024

Zoe Eleftherio

May 27, 1930 — April 23, 2024

Groton, Massachusetts

Let’s reflect for a moment on the curious and wonderful life of Zoe Eleftherio, affectionately known at Big Z, who departed this world Tuesday April 23, 2024, surrounded by family, after a rich and humble life brimming with grace.

Born May 27, 1930 to the charismatic Dr. Cyrus Comninos, who for years ran the Groton Hospital delivering just about every baby in town, she was a curly-haired toe head wisp of a little girl showered with affection from the jump. To cheer convalescing patients, Cyrus would prop young Zozo on his horse and lead her down the hospital corridor, popping into rooms. Later she would become an accomplished show jumper and fearless huntswoman, who was immortalized in the paintings and children’s books of family friend C.W. Anderson. Through him, she was introduced to fellow artists George Demetrius and Virginia Lee Burton, who inspired her to pursue a life of artistry. After graduating from Concord Academy alongside lifelong friend Mary Curry, she studied art at Garland College (now Simmons), after which she joined George and Ginny at Folly Cove Designers in Rockport producing elaborate block prints of equestrian scenes.

In 1956, she married Dr. John Eleftherio. Together they started a family above the office on Main Street, before moving to a newly built home on Common Street, at which time she helped start the Groton Center for the Arts. When she and the good doctor parted ways in 1975, her world was torn asunder. After many tears and a handful of hurricane-force tantrums, she picked herself up, and started catering with her loving stepmother Jane, later joining Betsy Hopkins and Audrey Western to form the Groaning Board catering company. She also became a real estate agent for MRM. And an amateur patron saint of lost souls, collecting boarders in need of shelter the way she collected abandoned kitchen utensils at yard sales, providing respite until they were ready to return to the world and be justly appreciated. She eventually downsized from her 10-acre wood on Common Street to her home on Temple Drive, before moving to Portsmouth RI, a stone’s throw from her daughter Melissa who watched over her in her final year and half.

Big Z was larger than life, but in the smallest of ways. She held your hand and let you hide behind her hip when you were too shy meet a new friend. She wept when someone cut a branch off a tree. She loved gardening and endured more tick bites than a sweet-blooded doe. She filled her closets and garages and attics with mismatched mittens, antique hand-powered lawn-mowing contraptions, 5th grade book reports, vintage bellbottoms, coarse stiff-legged stuffed animals, and a complete compendium of the yellow pages from 1972 onward, not to mention the bushels of yard sale purchases with 25 cent stickers still firmly affixed, just waiting for the day someone needed to core a pineapple or divine precisely how many Smith’s inhabited Groton in the 70’s. She wore the cutest clothes - plaid skirts and cheery striped blouses, pastel Ked’s and velvety cardigans - gifted from kids or salvaged from attics. She loved games; she was a tongue-biting sniper on the croquet pitch and an absolute terror at Monopoly, Scrabble, Stratego, Masterpiece, Bananagrams, Bridge, Crazy Eights, Go Fish - you pick it. She adored her grandkids and loved her children, even after the luster had to have worn thin.

She was a woman of few words, though she did tell a charming story. You could ask her a question you expected to conjure deep reflection or emotion and get nothing more than a blue-eyed gaze, a tiny-shouldered shrug and a crinkle of the nose. She was a wonderful cook. Nothing tasted quite like the little meals she’d cobble together last-minute during a visit from a friend or child. And baking! She was a master-baker of cakes and pies and cookies, even in later years when she forgot to add sugar or flour or, inevitably, some essential. Heaped with deserving praise, she’d always deflect credit to a friend who makes it better. She drove rickety old cars into the ground, shopped frugally for herself, but always bought thoughtful and generous gifts for her family and friends. Friends, she had so many great friends here in Groton - friends in their nineties and sixties and twenties and teens. She was a dedicated letter and note writer who was thrilled to find a real correspondence amongst the hordes of junk mail in her daily haul, though she was not above bemoaning the fact that too few of these came from her kids. And finally, she loved spending time with her grandkids, and her kids. Her gift to each was quiet time, playing, a love-filled confection, or dusky garden field trip, watering leafy greens and juicy tomatoes, in hand-me-down rubber boots, sometimes lined with plastic bags, while the kids shuffled about feeling the mud betwixt their toes as they stuffed their mouths with cheek-staining berries.

In all these little ways, she became this loving, humble, thoughtful, little legend that was Big Z. Not a doctor or lawyer or captain of industry, thankfully. Just a wonderful mom, and grandmother and great-grandmother, filled with grace, who will be remembered and loved forever. All of which begs the question, what will our world ever do without her? If we were to ask her, up there floating in the ether, having shed her failing body, now connected to us in new and more powerful ways, she’d probably just respond with a blue-eyed shrug.

Preceded in death by her parents, her loving step-mother Jane, ex-husband John, sisters Edith and Pat, and in-laws Nicholas, Cleopatra and Constance, her trusty steed Glengarry, and her faithful companion Dandelion, Zoe is survived by her sisters Helen and Rhea, her brother Cyrus, her daughters Melissa and Pam, her son Peter, their spouses Larry, Melanie, Chris and John, her six grandchildren Ellery, Little Z, Peter, Gus and Max, and Luke, their spouses and soon-to-be spouses Erin, James and Darren, her precious great granddaughters Audrey and Louise, and her amazing in-laws Bella and Arthur.

Visiting hours will occur at Badger Funeral Home in Groton Saturday May 4, from 10 am until noon. A same-day funeral mass will be offered for all who are able to attend at the Unitarian Church of Groton at 2 pm. A Kentucky Derby Tea Party in celebration of her life will be held directly afterward in the reception area below. In lieu of mournful attire and condolences, please bring your happiest Derby Day outfits and fondest memories of Zoe to share with us. Flowers are welcome, because she adored them, especially if gathered from your garden or a roadside field and displayed in a jelly jar. Donations made in her honor to The Groton Center for the Arts or Groton Hill Music Center would also make her smile. Thank you to the town and residents of Groton for making her life so much richer.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Saturday, May 4, 2024

10:00am - 12:00 pm (Eastern time)

Badger Funeral Home - Groton

45 School Street, Groton, MA 01450

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Saturday, May 4, 2024

1:00 - 2:00 pm (Eastern time)

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Celebration of Life

Saturday, May 4, 2024

2:00 - 3:00 pm (Eastern time)

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