Gloria Hanzel Vakos, a Maricopa resident since the early 2000s, was a Broadway and TV actress and model before deciding to start a family. Family photo
Gloria Hanzel Vakos told her story for an InMaricopa cover story in 2012. Photo by Jake Johnson

Gloria Hanzel Vakos passed away peacefully at home on June 9, 2021.

Born in 1932 in Burton, Ohio to Kathlyn and George Van Deweel, she led her school band as a teen and cheered on her favorite team.

Upon graduation, Gloria left home with a one-way ticket to New York City and launched her Broadway, modeling and television career. Instead of signing with a well-known Hollywood agent, she married and started a family, and never had second thoughts about choosing family over her career.

A longtime resident of Stamford, Connecticut, she moved to Maricopa in the early 2000s to be closer to family.

“Gloria could talk to anyone. She was kind and welcoming,” said her daughters Enid Picard-Ami and Veronica Lynch. “She touched so many people in so many ways and she loved the opportunity to bring people to church. She also loved her animals and fed her wild birds and bunnies in her backyard until the very end.”

A Villages neighbor remembered her friend fondly.

“Gloria was so much more than a neighbor, she became family to us,” said Lori Hodgen. “She was sassy, colorful and a very strong woman. She lived life on her terms but loved deeply. She is loved and will be terribly missed!”

In an InMaricopa magazine cover story in 2012 about her career, Hanzel Vakos called her family “the loves of her life.”

In addition to her daughters, she is survived by grandchildren Taunya Bustamonte, Angel Picard-Ami, Christian Picard-Ami, Kathlyn Lynch and Christopher Lynch. Plus, eight great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

A celebration of her life will be held at 12:15 p.m. Sunday, June 13, at Maricopa Assembly of God church, 20038 N. Taft Ave.