Order Flowers

Elisabeth Paunovich

December 15th, 2019

Elisabeth Rose Paunovich, age 90, formerly of Melbourne, Florida, entered eternal rest in San Antonio, Texas on December 15, 2019. She was born in Vienna, Austria on July 12, 1929 to parents Eleonore Woynar and Bella Knoeffel. As a young girl, Elisabeth embraced her love for music, drama and dance and attained her dream of becoming a ballerina with the Vienna State Ballet Company. At an early age, she faced the perils of war and had to survive with her family during the Natzi occupation of Vienna and then the Russian occupation. Dressed as an old lady, she traveled to a relative’s farm in the Austrian countryside to escape the atrocities against young girls and women at the hands of the Russian military. The separation from her family was difficult, but short.

At the end of World War II, the Vienna State Ballet company made a trip to Sorrento, Italy for a special performance for the Allied troops as they prepared to return to their homes. It was at this performance that she caught the eye of a young man, Mihailo “Mike” Paunovich, who was in Sorrento through the Office of the Naval Attache in Rome, Italy. That performance began a courtship between Rome and Vienna that resulted in their marriage on June 16, 1949. With the end of the war and a new life together, Elisabeth and Mihailo immigrated to America, where they were blessed with the gift of four children, two grandchildren and now two great-grandchildren.

Life in a new country was difficult for Elisabeth, but with her firm faith in God, love for her husband and children and strong will, she supported her husband and raised her children centered in a living and faith-based home centered around the family’s Serbian Orthodox faith. In the early years of their marriage in Gary, Indiana, Mike worked at Inland Steel and Budd Company. During that time, Elisabeth and her mother Eleonore made sure that the children were well taken care of at home as well as spiritually. It was common to see “Nona” with the children at the bus stop on Broadway, taking the children to church and Sunday school.

In the mid-60’s, Elisabeth supported Mike as he realized his dream to have his own business, he owned and operated Parkview Shell station at 35th and Broadway until they retired, at which time their son Mike Jr. took over the business. During those years Elisabeth supported Mike by doing the bookkeeping, while still making sure all the home life continued in a warm and loving fashion. Family was always the center in the Paunovich household, with Christmas, Easter, Birthdays and Slava always a celebration. Highlights of the year were the vacations to Florida.

Mike and Elisabeth both loved the ocean and felt that the sun, water and salt air were important to keep the children healthy, so they made their annual trips to Florida. In those days, the family car was packed, sandwiches were made, kids piled in the car with Grandma and off they would all go to Hollywood, Florida. A notable trip was when Dad purchased a Pontiac station wagon and then went to Montgomery Wards to buy a car air conditioner so that the family could be more comfortable through the long summer trips. Mom went ahead and added her own touch of curtains for the very back of the station wagon, and packed a cooler with sandwiches and snacks. The 30+ hour trip was an ordeal, but the reward of the sun, surf and family fun was priceless. Now that was a vacation!

As the years continued, Elisabeth’s call to her faith came again as she supported her husband as they became founding members of St Elijah Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Merrillville Indiana. She worked steadfastly next to her husband and church family, with love and grace supporting her family and church. She was a founding member of the St Elijah Serbian Orthodox Church as well as the Serbian Sisters Circle of St. Elijah, and supported the activities of the Sunday School and Choir. A memorable day for both Elisabeth and Mihailo was when they were bestowed the honor of Kumovi for the consecration of the St. Elijah Cathedral in Merrillville Indiana. The fond memories of those early days, the celebrations, and friends stayed with her throughout the years to the end. Prominently placed in the entrance to the bedroom in the Paunovich Florida house was the picture of the beautiful St. Elijah Cathedral.

With retirement, Elisabeth finally reached her dream of living in Florida, where she enjoyed her beautiful home with her husband Mike. With no Serbian community in Melbourne, Elisabeth and Mike quickly found a church home with St Katherine’s Greek Orthodox Church in Melbourne Florida. Here they worshipped and thanked God for all of their Blessings, and built new friends as they enjoyed their Florida dream. Elisabeth was an active member of the St Katherine Philoptochos, and learned new baking skills with her new and dear friends. Elisabeth and Mike enjoyed their retirement years, and their love for adventure and travel, they truly enjoyed their many trips to Austria, Italy, Greece, Hungary, where Elisabeth was able to meet her family from her father’s side. They also enjoyed traveling to visit their son Michael Jr. and his family along and their Kumovi and friends in Indiana. Elisabeth also enjoyed the many trips to Texas where they had the opportunity to be present when their dear grand-daughter Lisa was born and watch her grow into a lovely young lady.

On March 24, 2006, her beloved husband Mihailo departed this life, and left a major void in Elisabeth’s life. She continued to enjoy her dear family, beautiful home in Florida and church family at St Katherines. A major highlight for Elisabeth was her trip to San Francisco to be present as her dear grand-son married his lovely wife Rebecca. She was so happy to see that the family was finally growing once again. To an even greater delight for her was when she became a great-grandmother with their daughter Fenna’s arrival. Another highlight for Elisabeth was being in San Antonio to see her dear grand-daughter Lisa graduate for the University of Texas in Austin – the heavy rains of that day never dulled the happiness, love and pride she had for Lisa.

A truly special event for Elisabeth was her trip to Vienna, Austria with Elly, John and Lisa along with Mike and Becca. She was so happy to have her grandchildren see the city she grew up in and always had in her heart. A special treat for everyone was being able to actually walk through the home Elisabeth grew up in. We all remember how disappointed she was when she discovered that the flower shop on the corner of her childhood street was now a Starbuck’s!

In the last years, as her health declined, she found it necessary to move to be closer to her daughter Elly and son-in-law John. She continued to enjoy as best as she could new friends and life closer with Elly. Once again she found great happiness as she received the news that she was a great-grand-mother again to Julian. The joy she found in seeing pictures of him making it to his first birthday delighted her at every visit.

On December 15, 2019, Elisabeth was called to depart this life and begin her journey to eternal life. In addition to her parents, and her loving husband Mihailo, Elisabeth was preceeded in death by her dear daughters Elisabeth and Darinka.

Elisabeth is survived by daughter Dr. Eleonore Paunovich (John) Watkins of San Antonio, Texas; son Michael (Dorothy) Paunovich of Valporaiso, Indiana; dear grandchildren Michael (Rebecca) Paunovich of Oakland, California and Lisa Marie Watkins of New York City, New York; and dearest great-grandchildren Fenna and Julian Paunovich, along with her kumovi and many friends.

Elisabeth leaves this life having set an example for all who knew her as kind, gentle and enduring love for God, family and life. In spite of the hardships and challenges that she faced from an early age, and throughout her life, her faith and trust in God’s way helped her be a loving and caring daughter, wife, mother, grand-mother and great-grandmother. A testimony to her faith was Christmas two years ago, when she received a Bible in large print from Elly. In spite of her failing memory, when Elly asked her if she knew what the book was, Elisabeth pulled the Bible to her heart and said “This is the book God has given us to show us how to live.” Elisabeth set an example for all of us to follow her in that this journey of life on earth needs to be with God.

The Paunovich and Watkins families would like to thank the wonderful and caring staff at Bader House in San Antonio for loving and caring for Elisabeth as her needs for care increased. She felt at home with the love, care, great food and music! The family also wishes to thank Opus Hospice Care of San Antonio for their love and care in helping Elisabeth at the end of this life.

In lieu of flowers, the family would like to ask that donations be made in her memory to the St. Elijah Cathedral in Merrillville, Indiana or to the Building Fund of St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church in Melbourne, Florida.

Visitation will be on Saturday, December 21, 2019 from 9 to 10:30 AM at St. Elijah Cathedral, 8700 Taft Street, Merrillville. Funeral Service will begin at 10:30 with V. Rev. Aleksandar Novakovic, officiating. Interment will follow at Calumet Park Cemetery. For further information, please phone Mileva or Dave at 219-736-5840 or www.mycalumetpark.com


Saturday, December 21st, 2019
9:00 - 10:30 AM
St. Elijah Serbian Orthodox Cathedral

8700 Taft Street, Merrillville, IN 46410 VIEW MAP

T 219-736-5840
F 219-685-5128


Saturday, December 21st, 2019
10:30 AM
St. Elijah Serbian Orthodox Cathedral

8700 Taft Street, Merrillville, IN 46410  VIEW MAP

T 219-736-5840
F 219-685-5128