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Sunny Vera Kuzmich Lawrence, a wonderful, kind, and loving mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and friend passed away on August 10, 2023 at the Samaritan Hospice in Mt. Holly NJ after a brief illness. She was 88 years old.
Sunny was born Vera Hrynick in Elizabeth, NJ in 1934 to her parents Sydor and Mary who were Russian immigrants. She was the youngest of three children and was close to her brothers Lee and Marty for all of their lives. Her father called his two first-born sons Sonny for short. The nick-name stuck with the children and Vera, even though a girl, was also called Sonny. Vera preferred the nick-name to her given name and took it legally later in life. She preferred the spelling ‘Sunny’ for its happy connotation and often told people to spell her name like ‘a sunny day’.
After graduating high school Sunny went to the Bellevue School of Nursing in New York. After graduating from Bellevue with her R.N. degree, her first nursing job was with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. It was at this time that she met the love of her life, Stephen (Steve) Kuzmich. He proposed almost immediately but she made him wait a few years before they married. The couple lived in North Jersey for a few years where they welcomed their first daughter Alexandra (Alix). Vera and Steve then moved to Willingboro, NJ, where she was a nurse at Willingboro Hospital. It was there that their second daughter Kathryn (Katy) was born. The family lived in Willingboro for all of the girl’s childhoods.
Sunny became a school nurse in the 1970’s with the Burlington County Special Services School District working with special needs children. She absolutely loved working at the school and developed strong bonds with her students.
In the early '70's, Steve followed his calling of becoming a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church. Sunny fully supported him and was his ‘Matushka’, the respectful term for a priest’s wife, working tirelessly behind the scenes for the church parish.
Sunny’s beloved Steve passed away young and Sunny was widowed at the age of 45. While her heart was broken, Sunny managed to take this grief and use it to help others. She went back to college and earned an MA in counseling and eventually worked as a grief counselor. She connected with a group called HOPE (Helping Other People Evolve) whose goal was to support newly widowed people through the grieving process. She worked with Betty Rice to develop a new program for HOPE. She started multiple new HOPE chapters, leading many of them, and eventually became Program Director for the organization. Sunny literally helped hundreds of people who had gone through the loss of a spouse.
Sunny met Edward (Ed) Lawrence, a widower, through HOPE. She unexpectedly fell in love and enjoyed a new chapter in her life. Unfortunately Ed passed away after only a few years of very happy marriage.
Sunny also worked part-time for Samaritan Hospice counseling children experiencing the loss of a loved one. One of her last wishes was that, if she needed hospice, it would be Samaritan Hospice as she knew first-hand of the amazing work they do.
Sunny moved to the Evergreen’s retirement community in Moorestown in 2011. She was extremely happy there, making wonderful friends and participating in just about every activity she could. These include dominoes, bingo, cards, samba, musical events, exercise classes, and a number of committees.
Sunny is survived by her daughters Alix and Katy, son-in-law Rob, sister-in-law Nancy, grandchildren Judy, Debbie, Jake and Dan, grandchildren-in-law Nick, Rob, and Stephanie, and great-grandchildren George, Natalie, and Bobby. She is predeceased by Steve and Ed, her parents, brothers, and son-in-law Louis.
Relatives and friends are invited to her viewing on Friday at 10 AM at Orthodox Church of the Holy Cross. Requiem Services will be sung at 11 AM. Burial will follow at St. Vladimir Russian Orthodox Cemetery, Jackson, New Jersey.
In lieu of flowers please consider donating to one of the charities listed below that were near and dear to Sunny’s heart.
Samaritan Hospice: https://www.samaritannj.org
St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital: https://www.stjude.org
Deborah Heart and Lung Center: https://demanddeborah.org
Samaritan Hospice (Samaritan Gift Processing Center)
PO Box 71425, Philadelphia PA 19176
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
501 St. Jude Place, Memphis TN 38105
Deborah Heart & Lung Center
200 Trenton Road, Browns Mills NJ 08015