Lilian Eleanor Symons

Lilian Eleanor Symons, 96, passed away Wednesday, October 6, 2021 at Morningstar Care Home in Baldwin City, KS. Memorial services will be held at 10:00 a.m. Monday, October 18, 2021 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Lawrence. Inurnment will be at the Trinity Episcopal Church Columbarium.

Eleanor was born on August 30, 1925 in Camborne, England, the daughter of William Mitchell and Eva (Eustice) Symons. She graduated from the University of Oxford having attended Lady Margaret Hall College. She then worked at the University of Reading, England. She was one of a group of English librarians recruited in the mid-1950s by the Director of Libraries at the University of Kansas. She started in the cataloging department at the library and was appointed head cataloger in 1960. She was known by staff for her superb memos establishing cataloging procedures.

She was an active member of Trinity Episcopal Church in Lawrence where she was a favorite lector for many years and also led Morning Prayer. Eleanor regularly served at the annual Ploughman’s Lunch at Trinity providing church tours in her red “Holy Terror” T-shirt. She was an avid knitter, contributing numerous items for the church’s annual Trinity Treasures sale.

Eleanor was the first volunteer for the Audio-Reader Network. She was recruited in the summer of 1971 and began recording books before Audio-Reader went on the air since they needed a stockpile of books prior to the first day of broadcast on October 11. She was a dedicated volunteer, visiting the studios 2 to 3 times each week to record poetry, short stories, books, and magazines for the print disabled listeners. She was also a great advocate for Audio-Reader recruiting many of her friends and colleagues as volunteer readers. Eleanor was recognized in October of 2016 for 45 years of service. She continued to record books with weekly visits to the studio until early 2019.

She was preceded in death by her brother, Henry Symons, and a nephew, Timothy Symons. She is survived by her sister-in-law, Olive Symons, and a nephew, Christopher Symons, both of Isle of Wight, England.


Eleanor’s service will be streamed from Trinity Episcopal Church’s website at starting at 9:55 a.m. Monday, October 18, 2021.


Memorial contributions may be made in Eleanor’s name to Audio-Reader and may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.

10 Condolences

  1. Judy Heller on October 13, 2021 at 6:50 pm

    Eleanor was an amazing woman who put God, her church, and service to others at the forefront of her life. Many times I’ve seen her struggle to stand and read scripture during a service, but she insisted because she considered it her duty and her privilege. She would always show concern for others even when she was suffering herself. She was an encyclopedia of knowledge on a variety of subjects, and eloquently would tell what she knew in a variety of interesting ways. She made a positive difference in this world. I’m glad I knew her.

  2. Carrie Heim on October 14, 2021 at 9:25 am

    Eleanor was a woman of dry wit that occasionally lead to cantankerousness, but she was usually engaged in doing something that others might benefit. She knitted dozens, if not hundreds, of caps and doll clothes for sale at the church bazaar.

    Eleanor’s British accent charmed listeners at Audio Reader, as well as those who entered into everyday conversation with her. On Sunday morning at church, her readings seemed special, and we paid attention to what she was telling us.

    I am glad to have had counted her as a friend.

  3. John Doveton on October 15, 2021 at 7:49 am

    Eleanor was one of a kind who lived her life with passion and was a faithful Episcopalian. I shall always remember her telling of the time when, as a young librarian, she met C.S. Lewis.

  4. Rebecca Stuhr on October 15, 2021 at 1:57 pm

    Eleanor was part of my first years as a professional librarian, she was part of a fantastic team at the University of Kansas and I have always been grateful that I had my start with her and the rest of the team. Even more personally, I associate Eleanor with the birth of my first child, Helen–a baby lady Jay Hawk. Eleanor knit Helen a beautiful sweater and blanket which I still have and treasure. Eleanor has never been far from my mind although it has been several decades since I’ve seen her or communicated with her. I can still hear her voice. And I remember one comment she made about a shared colleague that still makes me laugh. “I in my corner and he in mine.” And of course her desk –heaped several feet high. But, everything at her grasp. Eleanor, a wonderful, warm, caring, cheerful, and unforgettable colleague and friend.

  5. Antha Cotten-Spreckelmeyer on October 18, 2021 at 8:31 am

    Eleanor was one of my favorite people. She knew so much about so many things and gladly shared her knowledge. She was devout, witty, and altogether good company! I have fond memories of our shared work in campus ministry at KU and treasure the time we spent together.

  6. Harlanne Roberts on October 18, 2021 at 10:41 am

    Eleanor was a true gift from God to our community and to all whose lives she touched. She had a vast knowledge and she was what I would call a” tue Renaissance woman”. Her contributions to our church and community will continue far into the future from which we shall all benefit. Thank you, Eleanor, for your life which you shared so generously with all of us. Love and peace eternal.

  7. sherry hawkins backhus on December 19, 2021 at 4:14 pm

    Eleanor was a special colleague at KU’s Watson Library. She was so knowledgeable and was so determined to pass on the information of the reference department to all faculty, students and staff who were questioning that she inspired several students to continue their studies in search of a masters degree in Library Science.
    She did have a personality that was both delightful and disconcerting and many of us been delighted and consternated by her. Dear Eleanor will be remembered by those whose lives she touched, and those were Many.

  8. Fowler Jones on February 3, 2022 at 4:06 pm

    One might say she was the signature voice of the Kansas Audio Reader service. God bless her.

  9. Karen Siegel on March 3, 2022 at 7:13 pm

    I was honored to know Eleanor from our mutual love of Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, NY. We shared a love of the church, the liturgy, and knitting, not to mention books. She will be greatly missed.

  10. colin heywood gillingham on May 21, 2022 at 4:28 am

    there are fond memories at treslothn

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