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Celebrating the life of
Renee Protopapas
December 19, 1929 - May 23, 2015
Renée Protopapas
Services under the direction of:
Bradshaw Carter
(713) 521-0066
  • Celebration of Life
  • 5:00pm - Wednesday, May 27, 2015
  • Bradshaw Carter
  • 1734 W Alabama St (Map)
    Houston, Tx 77098

  • (713) 521-0066

I work for Westair AC & Heating & we did work for your Mom for many years. I just found out about her passing & wanted to send my deepest sympathy, she was always so wonderful to talk to. I have to share this story with you... Two years ago we did not get her Fall check done before she was to leave on a trip. She was quite upset with me & told me that I should be ashamed of myself for calling so late. I felt terrible, but it made me realize to be more on my toes when it came to getting things done, especially when it came to getting her appointments done on time!!! I will truly miss her beautiful accent... Even though I never got to meet her personally j could tell she was a very classy lady. She will be missed. So sorry for your loss.

Dawn Dodson, Houston, Texad

Rest in Peace my friend Renee. Renee (and Lucy) I will so very much miss our talks on the banks of Braes bayou as the sun came down. I wish now that I had more clearly expressed my admiration for you as a female athlete in triathlon; you were a competitor back when even men were afraid of the sport. I have so often spoken to my family and friends about Renee, wow, what a life she has led and what a swimmer....she is trying to get me to swim at Rice...putting it off. Funny how Belgium was common between us, my favorite country in Europe, the last time we spoke was about Tournia which I think is my favorite city in Europe. I found it fascinating to talk to you about the country as well as share our lives sitting on the Castlewood bench, as Lucy begged for a treat. To your family my deepest condolences, you have lost a very very special person. I am crying for the loss of Renee. God Bless.

Tatam, Mark, Houston, Tx

Share your condolences with the family

Aspeslagh, ostend, belgium

I was not blessed to personally know Renee. She and my beloved 95 year old granny,Sara Gaffney, were next door neighbors for 15 years. I now have the honor and privilege to have adopted Renees dog, Lucy. I'm sure my granny and Renee are watching from above over their loved ones and family pets!!

Melissa Spencer / Sara Gaffney , Houston, Tx

I don't even know where to begin. Renee taught us all what it meant to truly live and love life. I can sit here and ask why her? why now? We have been blessed to have Renee walk into our lives with the beautiful lively soul she will always be. We may not know why people enter our lives, but sometimes it's to teach us a thing or two about our own. What lovely opportunities and experiences we've all had together and the memories will forever be in my heart to cherish dearly.

Sofie LaManna, Boston, MA

What a wonderful woman to have as a mother, grandmother or friend - or just as an influence. Brava to Renee for a life well lived - fully realized. Strength to you all - but you have hers in you already.

Brangam/Snell, NYC, NY

I am going to miss Renee so much. She was such a wonderful spirit and had such joy for life. She was such fun to be around, and an inspiration to us, not only as a swimmer or as someone getting the best of aging, but as someone who lived her full life well. I loved talking to her about her life, and her love of her family. I'll never forget her laugh. My condolences for your loss.

Bruce Kone, Houston, TX

What an amazing woman! I am so thankful I had the chance to meet Renée and swim with her during this last decade of her life. Even as our eldest swimmer on the team, she had a fire about her that was as strong as any. She was full of life, motivation, and determination all the way up to her last days. What an inspiration for us all to strive to be more like HER. She brings new meaning to the phrase "teammates for life!" Look forward to celebrating her life tonight amongst her family and friends. Deepest sympathies to her family during this difficult time.

Fellow Rice Swimmer, Marissa Clapp, Houston, TX

My thoughts are with Mimi, her family, and extended family. I had met Renee several times and I could see some of that spunk in Mimi as well. I very much enjoyed learning more about her life today, thanks to Chris. One of the reasons Renee was special to me was because she raised one of my best friends, Mimi! Another was she had my mother's exact birthday! Love to you all at this sad time. I'm especially thinking of Paul and Leroy.

Carondelet Dember, Austin, TX

Chris - My deepest condolences to you and your family. Your mother sounds like she was a lovely person. The words that were written about her life brought tears to my eyes and warmed my heart. We should all be lucky in life to have and achieve what your mother did and had. Beautiful woman. Sorry for your lose. All the best- Sofia

Sofia Beckenhaupt, Malverne, NY

Hail to thee, Blithe Spirit! On te manque.

Barbara & Bob Malone, Houston, Texas

Renée was an inspiration with her strength and enthusiasm for life. She never wavered once she had decided to take on a project. She will be missed by many people with whom she shared a wide variety of activities and interests. She had an incredibly full and rich life, I loved listening to her stories about the past. So long, Renée, have a good swim!

Francoise Crispin, Houston, TX

Renee was and remains the role model for the women on the Rice Masters Swim Team. She never lost that mischievous twinkle in her blue eyes. Whether you are 20 or 60+, Renee's presence reminded us that if we keep on swimming, then maybe we, too, will be vigorous at 85. She encouraged us to travel while we can, and some of us have taken several open water swim trips with her in mind. She lives on in each of us whose lives she touched.

Judy Levison, Bellaire, TX

I met Renee 18 years ago at the UT Rec Center and she immediately became someone that I loved talking to. She always had a smile on her face. I will miss her. Prayers for her family.

Leticia Zarate, Houston, TX

I'm so very sorry for your loss. I wish I had met your mother. She was an amazing woman.

Jeannie Gault , Ashland, Ohio

She was such a strong woman. May she rest in peace. I Will remember her forever. My "tante van Amerika". Girl from Ostend. Thanks a lot! Stefaan Kerger

Stefaan Kerger, Ostend , Belgium

It was always a pleasure to visit with Mrs. Protopapas and her animals that she brought to Westbury Animal Hospital . She was encouraging as we discussed her childhood and her swimming events at an elderly age !!! She was a wonderful lady with class. I will miss her . L.D.Eckermann DVM

Dr. L.D.Eckermann DVM, Houston, Texas

Mrs. Protopapas was a unique individual and a treasure to be around. Everyone in my office looked forward to her visits. Her vibrant spirit and love of life inspired us all. She will be greatly missed.

Jack Lamm, Houston, TX

Renee was a lovely and inspiring woman and I will miss her smiles at the pool. I am grateful to her for encouraging me to swim and compete. Condolences to Renee's children and grandchildren, she loved you all very much.

Sabrina Midkiff, Houston, TX

Mimi and Jim, I am so sorry to hear of Mimi's passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with you at this sad time. Much love from Peter and Carol Worsnop

Carol Worsnop, Houston, TX

Renee will be missed so much at Spanish group and among her friends there. We loved her jelly and quick wit. She inspired many to stay active, learn a language, and develop interests to enjoy. She is truly a wonderful lady. Our prayers are with you during this time of sorrow. What a life well lived! Melanie and Dana Chamness

Melanie & Dana Chamness, Houston, Tx

It is so hard to believe that she is gone. Renee was more alive than anyone we ever knew. She was always full of encouragement and kindness and smiles.

Carol and Jeff Thibodeau, Oklahoma City, OK

In your time of sorrow, know that it is shared by many, many people whose lives she enriched. We all have such fond memories of Renee and will cherish them always. - Emmett, Peggy, Kalen and Nolan

Hines Family, Houston, TX

Renée Protopapas (née Kerger) was born in 1929, the year of the Great Crash, in Ostend, a resort town on the North Sea, and came of age in the turmoil of the Second World War, in Nazi-occupied Belgium. She learned to survive, with the help of a loving family, as the world changed around her in unimaginable ways. She emerged from the war as a 15-year old girl who would never forget that experience. From that time on she showed an independent streak that would carry her on throughout her life.

When the time came to choose her path in life, she looked to her parents, whom she admired very much, and decided to follow in their footsteps in the hotel and restaurant business. She enrolled in the local hotel school, the only girl in her class of 48 and the first to graduate. This would be only the first of many firsts in her life. Her first job was working for Solo Margarine, dispensing cooking advice to housewives who wrote letters to "Miss Renée answers your questions". Later she worked in her parents' restaurant, both as a waitress and as her mother's assistant in managing the business, while her father ran the kitchen. It was from him that she learned the improvisatory nature of cooking, how to take advantage of accidents and the ingredients at hand.

She grew into a beautiful young woman, fending off the advances of the pale-faced, contented young men of her town, somehow convinced that there was more to life and love. Her patience was rewarded, and one day this impossibly handsome Greek sailor from Alexandria, Egypt walked into her life: Anthony. He would take her away to exotic lands, or so she thought; instead he left her pregnant and alone. She could have given up, but with the full support of her family, decided to keep the child, . Unexpectedly, almost miraculously, he returned two years later, and they were married in February of 1958. She was 27 years old.

Anthony took her to Greece to meet his family, who welcomed this strange tall northerner; she immediately resolved to learn Greek so she could speak with her tiny new mother-in-law. She would eventually add Spanish to her repertoire, making a total of five languages. Many other travels followed; the wife of a chief engineer on a Greek rustbucket freighter had the "privilege" of traveling with her husband. She saw the world: Peru, Chile, the Philippines, Japan, Turkey, Italy, the United States. They bought a house together in her home town and she ran a bed & breakfast. Soon thereafter, Anthony was promoted to port engineer and settled down to an office job in New York City.

Renée moved her family to America, and suddenly found herself in that strangest of strange lands, American suburbia. She very quickly adapted to her new role as a suburban mom, devoting herself to raising her three children and cultivating a circle of European expatriates. She insisted on music lessons, art lessons, museum visits, tennis lessons for her children, believing that culture was important not just for its own sake, but as a means of social mobility. All her children graduated from college, something she was very proud of.

Eventually Anthony's career brought him to Houston, and they settled in a ranch house on Braes Bayou. Here Renée began her new life as an athlete, quickly racking up amazing performances in distance running, triathlons, marathons, and of course swimming. When Anthony died she took over his business and became a CEO for a while, successfully running a ship's supply company in world dominated by men.

After this time she again traveled widely, to France, Denmark, participating in the Master's World swimming championships in Munich and Sheffield, and visiting her family in Belgium. She returned to her love of the arts, pursuing her lifelong interest in opera, learned Spanish, joined a Shakespeare reading group, indulged in Tango lessons. She took art classes and impressed even seasoned artists with her imagination. The one thing that kept her going most of all was her love of swimming, and the camaraderie of her swimming buddies. She spent many years with Emmett Hines' H2O team, and later with Seth Huston's Rice Aquatics.

She is survived by her three children: Chris, Marie-Louise "Mimi" and Isabel, as well as her brothers, Adrien and André Kerger. Also four grandchildren: Andrew, Sarah, Leroy and Paul.

In lieu of flowers the family requests that donations be made to Houston Hospice (www.houstonhospice.org).

SHARE YOUR CONDOLENCES

  

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I work for Westair AC & Heating & we did work for your Mom for many years. I just found out about her passing & wanted to send my deepest sympathy, she was always so wonderful to talk to. I have to share this story with you... Two years ago we did not get her Fall check done before she was to leave on a trip. She was quite upset with me & told me that I should be ashamed of myself for calling so late. I felt terrible, but it made me realize to be more on my toes when it came to getting things done, especially when it came to getting her appointments done on time!!! I will truly miss her beautiful accent... Even though I never got to meet her personally j could tell she was a very classy lady. She will be missed. So sorry for your loss.

Dawn Dodson, Houston, Texad

Rest in Peace my friend Renee. Renee (and Lucy) I will so very much miss our talks on the banks of Braes bayou as the sun came down. I wish now that I had more clearly expressed my admiration for you as a female athlete in triathlon; you were a competitor back when even men were afraid of the sport. I have so often spoken to my family and friends about Renee, wow, what a life she has led and what a swimmer....she is trying to get me to swim at Rice...putting it off. Funny how Belgium was common between us, my favorite country in Europe, the last time we spoke was about Tournia which I think is my favorite city in Europe. I found it fascinating to talk to you about the country as well as share our lives sitting on the Castlewood bench, as Lucy begged for a treat. To your family my deepest condolences, you have lost a very very special person. I am crying for the loss of Renee. God Bless.

Tatam, Mark, Houston, Tx

Candle tribute lit by Melanie Sellers — Texas

Share your condolences with the family

Aspeslagh, ostend, belgium

Candle tribute lit by Jim & Mimi Lawrence — Texas

Candle tribute lit by Linda Bolinski — New Jersey

I was not blessed to personally know Renee. She and my beloved 95 year old granny,Sara Gaffney, were next door neighbors for 15 years. I now have the honor and privilege to have adopted Renees dog, Lucy. I'm sure my granny and Renee are watching from above over their loved ones and family pets!!

Melissa Spencer / Sara Gaffney , Houston, Tx

I don't even know where to begin. Renee taught us all what it meant to truly live and love life. I can sit here and ask why her? why now? We have been blessed to have Renee walk into our lives with the beautiful lively soul she will always be. We may not know why people enter our lives, but sometimes it's to teach us a thing or two about our own. What lovely opportunities and experiences we've all had together and the memories will forever be in my heart to cherish dearly.

Sofie LaManna, Boston, MA

Candle tribute lit by Mark and Katia Berger — Texas

What a wonderful woman to have as a mother, grandmother or friend - or just as an influence. Brava to Renee for a life well lived - fully realized. Strength to you all - but you have hers in you already.

Brangam/Snell, NYC, NY

Candle tribute lit by Bruce Kone — Texas

I am going to miss Renee so much. She was such a wonderful spirit and had such joy for life. She was such fun to be around, and an inspiration to us, not only as a swimmer or as someone getting the best of aging, but as someone who lived her full life well. I loved talking to her about her life, and her love of her family. I'll never forget her laugh. My condolences for your loss.

Bruce Kone, Houston, TX

What an amazing woman! I am so thankful I had the chance to meet Renée and swim with her during this last decade of her life. Even as our eldest swimmer on the team, she had a fire about her that was as strong as any. She was full of life, motivation, and determination all the way up to her last days. What an inspiration for us all to strive to be more like HER. She brings new meaning to the phrase "teammates for life!" Look forward to celebrating her life tonight amongst her family and friends. Deepest sympathies to her family during this difficult time.

Fellow Rice Swimmer, Marissa Clapp, Houston, TX

My thoughts are with Mimi, her family, and extended family. I had met Renee several times and I could see some of that spunk in Mimi as well. I very much enjoyed learning more about her life today, thanks to Chris. One of the reasons Renee was special to me was because she raised one of my best friends, Mimi! Another was she had my mother's exact birthday! Love to you all at this sad time. I'm especially thinking of Paul and Leroy.

Carondelet Dember, Austin, TX

Candle tribute lit by Nadia Ghani — Texas

Candle tribute lit by Sheri Dacso — Texas

Chris - My deepest condolences to you and your family. Your mother sounds like she was a lovely person. The words that were written about her life brought tears to my eyes and warmed my heart. We should all be lucky in life to have and achieve what your mother did and had. Beautiful woman. Sorry for your lose. All the best- Sofia

Sofia Beckenhaupt, Malverne, NY

Hail to thee, Blithe Spirit! On te manque.

Barbara & Bob Malone, Houston, Texas

Candle tribute lit by Barbara Malone — Texas

Renée was an inspiration with her strength and enthusiasm for life. She never wavered once she had decided to take on a project. She will be missed by many people with whom she shared a wide variety of activities and interests. She had an incredibly full and rich life, I loved listening to her stories about the past. So long, Renée, have a good swim!

Francoise Crispin, Houston, TX

Renee was and remains the role model for the women on the Rice Masters Swim Team. She never lost that mischievous twinkle in her blue eyes. Whether you are 20 or 60+, Renee's presence reminded us that if we keep on swimming, then maybe we, too, will be vigorous at 85. She encouraged us to travel while we can, and some of us have taken several open water swim trips with her in mind. She lives on in each of us whose lives she touched.

Judy Levison, Bellaire, TX

Candle tribute lit by Judy Levison — Texas

I met Renee 18 years ago at the UT Rec Center and she immediately became someone that I loved talking to. She always had a smile on her face. I will miss her. Prayers for her family.

Leticia Zarate, Houston, TX

I'm so very sorry for your loss. I wish I had met your mother. She was an amazing woman.

Jeannie Gault , Ashland, Ohio

She was such a strong woman. May she rest in peace. I Will remember her forever. My "tante van Amerika". Girl from Ostend. Thanks a lot! Stefaan Kerger

Stefaan Kerger, Ostend , Belgium

It was always a pleasure to visit with Mrs. Protopapas and her animals that she brought to Westbury Animal Hospital . She was encouraging as we discussed her childhood and her swimming events at an elderly age !!! She was a wonderful lady with class. I will miss her . L.D.Eckermann DVM

Dr. L.D.Eckermann DVM, Houston, Texas

Mrs. Protopapas was a unique individual and a treasure to be around. Everyone in my office looked forward to her visits. Her vibrant spirit and love of life inspired us all. She will be greatly missed.

Jack Lamm, Houston, TX

Renee was a lovely and inspiring woman and I will miss her smiles at the pool. I am grateful to her for encouraging me to swim and compete. Condolences to Renee's children and grandchildren, she loved you all very much.

Sabrina Midkiff, Houston, TX

Candle tribute lit by Sheila Baskett — Texas

Mimi and Jim, I am so sorry to hear of Mimi's passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with you at this sad time. Much love from Peter and Carol Worsnop

Carol Worsnop, Houston, TX

Renee will be missed so much at Spanish group and among her friends there. We loved her jelly and quick wit. She inspired many to stay active, learn a language, and develop interests to enjoy. She is truly a wonderful lady. Our prayers are with you during this time of sorrow. What a life well lived! Melanie and Dana Chamness

Melanie & Dana Chamness, Houston, Tx

Candle tribute lit by Carol and Jeff Thibodeau — Oklahoma

It is so hard to believe that she is gone. Renee was more alive than anyone we ever knew. She was always full of encouragement and kindness and smiles.

Carol and Jeff Thibodeau, Oklahoma City, OK

In your time of sorrow, know that it is shared by many, many people whose lives she enriched. We all have such fond memories of Renee and will cherish them always. - Emmett, Peggy, Kalen and Nolan

Hines Family, Houston, TX

Candle tribute lit by Colette Lanier — Texas

Candle tribute lit by Emmett Hines — Texas


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