Elizabeth L. Jones-Lukacs, M.D, Colonel, USAF (retired) passed away at The Highlands at Wyomissing on January 2, 2019. Born in North Carolina and forever a southern belle, she lived her life on a large stage and in a manner akin to the heroines she admired in southern gothic literature.
Born into a family which had great pride, little money and a habit of hard work, she excelled in school and in writing, dance, singing and hunting squirrels and rabbits with her uncle Lloyd. An expert marksman, devoted animal lover and accomplished equestrienne, she took her interests with her into adulthood. As a teen, she was awarded a Rogers and Hammerstein scholarship to take voice lessons in New York City, and won the prestigious writing prize from The Citadel College in Charleston – which was given to her privately when it was discovered that she was female, and not the male they assumed she was when she entered under an assumed name. By the time she put herself through Ogelthorpe University in Atlanta, she was married to Donald Rubin of New York, NY, and shortly thereafter had the first two of her four daughters.
Moving to New York city with her young family, she supported them by working in a pet store and working as a writer for World Book Encyclopedia and True Romance magazine, among other publications. She published a biography of Marie Curie for young adults, and wrote two Golden Stamp Books for children. At the age of 29 she achieved her goal of entering medical school at Downstate Medical Center, now a division of SUNY. By the time she graduated as a general practitioner, she also had her third daughter and second husband, Mihaly J. Lukacs, originally from Sarvar, Hungary. In partnership with her husband, she traded and sold Standardbred and Thoroughbred horses with Hungary, which was then a communist nation, importing and exporting bloodlines which produced champions. Together they also imported and helped to establish in the U.S. the Hungarian dog breeds Kuvasz and Vizsla. They also developed and patented Sure-Sep, a rapid blood-separating device which was used in hospitals around the world.
Her true love in life was medicine, and being a doctor gave her great joy. She had a successful and busy private practice in Blooming Grove, NY, where she welcomed her fourth daughter; and then moved her practice to Buckingham county, Virginia, where she also moonlit as an emergency room physician and county coroner. She loved her patients and advocated for them tirelessly; she treated everyone the same regardless of social standing or circumstances. If a patient had no money, she was satisfied with payment of a bushel of produce, a barter of service, or once, famously, a bear which she had stuffed and mounted and which hung in her home until she passed away 40 years later. Like her hero Scarlett O’ Hara, Dr. J-L, as she was known to her many admirers, farmed a beautiful piece of land where she grew prize-winning hay, corn, wheat and oats as well as continuing to breed horses, cattle and hogs. In her 70s, she imported a pair of Connemara horses from Ireland, introducing a rare bloodline to the U.S, which has achieved national recognition. Her pleasure in her animals, and her ability to grow any plant, enriched her life immeasurably, bringing peace and healing to her keen intelligence and restless push for excellence. Interviewed on television for the show, “What’s My Line”, she glossed over her many accomplishments with a terse, “my brains are not on my genitals”.
In mid-life, she joined the United States Air Force as a flight surgeon, traveling the world while providing medical care for soldiers and dignitaries, including a stint on Air Force Two as Vice President Quayle's physician and a position in the morgue at Dover AFB in Delaware, where she welcomed our deceased veterans home and prepared them for return to their families. She undertook the study of aerospace medicine, and for several years was in charge of the executive medicine program at the Pentagon, caring for some of top brass of our nation’s armed forces. At the Pentagon during the attack of 9-11, she survived without incident and later adopted the dog of a comrade who was killed that day. She retired as a full Colonel, decorated with the Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Award, Meritorious Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and Air Force Longevity Award Ribbon, among others.
During the Desert Storm conflict, Dr. Jones-Lukacs served in Riydah, Saudi Arabia, as the commanding officer of her medical company, which was awarded the Outstanding Unit Award. True to form, while in Saudi she took the opportunity to ride a camel, and brought back with her to Joint Base Andrews a small desert cat that she had befriended.
Dr. Jones-Lukacs is survived by her daughters Amanda Rubin and Laurel Rubin, both of New York, NY; Angelique Lukacs of Bernville, PA and Klara Lukacs of Bremerton, WA. Her 6 grandchildren called her “Dr. Granny” and her many friends and admirers called her “Dr. J – L”.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in memory of this remarkable woman. Among her favorite charities were the Wounded Warriors Project, The Humane Society of the United States, Planned Parenthood and Doctors without Borders. As a lifelong Democrat, she would also welcome the support of elected leaders who champion the rights of the underserved and marginalized, including alliances for mental health and equality for all.
Cole Funeral Home & Cremation Center, 402 E. Penn Ave., Robesonia is handling arrangements. Online condolences may be made at www.ColeFH.com