2017-10-06 18:38:56 UTC
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Lionel Ames Obituary
Lionel Ames, 94, passed away peacefully on October 1st in Sherman Oaks, CA. He was born to Asher Shapiro, an Orthodox Rabbi, and his wife Miriam (Greenbaum) on March 6th, 1923 in Chicago, IL. He was the fifth of six children and was raised in Chicago before being drafted into the army after completing two years of engineering college.
Ten months into his army career, at the age of 23, he was transferred to Los Alamos, NM. There he worked alongside his brother, Dr. Maurice Shapiro, in a chemistry lab on the implosion part of the atomic bomb. In Los Alamos Lionel also worked as a freelance Cantor, performing Passover Seders and services every Friday. Lionel loved this experience and his scientific talents were recognized by his superiors who asked him to stay on even after his army career as a staff sergeant ended.
Instead, Lionel returned to college in Chicago to finish his degree in industrial engineering. The day after he graduated he abandoned this career path altogether and followed his heart into the world of show business. In his late twenties Lionel changed his last name to Ames and moved to New York City. He lived there for five years, landing work as an actor and singer, including being cast in three Broadway plays. One such theatre experience had him working alongside Carol Burnett, and when the production traveled to Los Angeles for a ten-week run, Lionel fell in love with Hollywood and never left.
It was here that he established a successful career as a Cantor and singer, producing the album Lionel Ames: In Concert in 1969. He also performed in a variety of films and television shows in the 1950s and '60s. He eventually established a booming business as an event planner and entertainer and performed at all types of ceremonies from weddings to Bar Mitzvahs to High Holiday services for over fifty years.
A huge believer in holistic medicine and healthy living, which earned him the affectionate nickname "Vita" (for vitamin), Lionel was still going to the gym five times a week until a few months before his death. He never had hearing aids, glasses, or a walker - even at 94 he was a vision of health. He smiled often and could always be counted on for a good joke.
Lionel is survived by his adoring wife of fifty years, Barbara, whom he called "the light of his life" until his last day. He frequently sang to her and professed his unending love and devotion to her every chance he got. He is also survived by his sister Naomi, his step-sons Paul and Brad, his niece Raquel, his nephew Joel, his daughter-in-law Ina, and four grand-children, Sean, Chris, Maxwell and Hope. Lionel is preceded in death by his parents, his brother Maurice, three sisters, and his step-son Jeff. Lionel and his sister Beth, who lived in Israel, passed away on the very same night. He will be dearly missed by all who knew him. Private family services were held. Donations may be made in his memory to Maximum Hope Foundation (www.MaximumHopeFoundation.org).
Published in the Los Angeles Times on Oct. 8, 2017