By Antigone Barton
Life had become easy for Lydia Crozier, who was happily married and a successful
decorator, when a little-understood epidemic began stealing people from her
It was in the mid-1980s when she started cooking for homebound patients, bringing
them meals, spending nights on their couches, and calling their families when
they died of complications from AIDS.
It was the first volunteer work she had done, she said many years later. Caring for patients, along with
supporting the cause of public health, remained among the work she continued
for the rest of her life.
Mrs. Crozier, a founder of FoundCare, which built a community health center for
uninsured and underinsured in Palm Beach County, a longtime active leader at
the Comprehensive AIDS Program and Hope House, and a resident of South Palm
Beach, died May 17, at 74.
Born in Cuba, she came to the United States with her mother and one of her two
brothers when she was 10 years old. When her mother, a seamstress, established
a business, she took charge of her brother, who was seven years younger.
“She basically raised me from six to ten,” her brother, Frank Seiser said.
She grew up to become a businesswoman, builder, hotel owner, and interior designer.
She had married twice and was widowed in her 40s when she moved to South
Florida where she met Jim Crozier. After the two were married, they lived in
She was working on Worth Avenue when the AIDS epidemic started taking a toll around her.
“We went to so many funerals,” she said last year. “No one knew what to do about it.”
At an AIDS benefit, she began to see a role.
She remembered a night she spent “on a very itchy couch,” at an apartment in
Northwood, where she didn’t know if her car, parked outside, would still be
there in the morning. She called her husband and told him she had to stay,
because the man she was visiting was dying.
“When you’re born, someone catches you,” she said later. “When you die, someone has
to let you go. Tell you that you were a good person, a good son, a good
But too, often, she said, no one was there. She remembered parents who wore rubber
gloves to care for their own children, in the early, mysterious days of the
epidemic. And she remembered opening invitations “that sparkle and feathers
fell out of,” to charity balls in the name of the AIDS epidemic and not seeing
the connection between the glittering parties and problem they were said to
“I thought, go change someone’s diaper, that’s important,” she said years later.
The beginning of the Comprehensive AIDS Program she said, “was just friends helping friends.”
Her compassion was contagious, CAP director Yolette Bonnet says now.
“Many of our board members are on the board because of her,” Bonnet said. “She gave her money, her heart, her whole self. She touched you.”
She continued to give to other health-related causes, including Hope House, and supported the endeavors of the many friends she made in her volunteer work.
“Wherever I went, she helped,” said Jim Sugarman, a nonprofit organization consultant who met her through her work at Hope House in the early 1990s.
Diagnosed with cervical cancer more than four years ago, she realized a long-held dream
in her last year, visiting Cuba for the first time since leaving. Through much
of her illness she continued to volunteer, serving at CAP.
“It’s just like living in a little village,” she said. “If you know someone who is sick, you bring them soup. It’s doing what you want done for you.”
She is survived by her son, Frank Oliva Jr., and two brothers, Seiser and Joseph Burruzzo. Her husband died in 2000.
Memorial donations may be made to Comprehensive AIDS Program and sent to CAP, 2330 S.
Congress Ave., West Palm Beach, FL 33406 and Hospice, 5300 East End Ave., West
Palm Beach, FL 33407.
memorial service will be held on June 14 at 5:30 p.m. at Unity of the Palm
Beaches, 1957 S. Flagler Drive, West Palm Beach.