Eugenia Strauss, 75, of Manalapan, Fla., a Hollywood television and movie actress who became a Main Line homemaker and patron of the arts, died of complications from edema Monday, May 24, at Good Samaritan Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Mrs. Strauss grew up in Detroit as Eugenia Popoff. An accomplished ballerina at age 14, she was recruited by the American Ballet Theatre. With her mother as chaperone, she went on tour with the company.
At 16, while touring in California, she successfully auditioned for a dancing part in an operetta at the Hollywood Bowl. She was discovered by a Warner Bros. talent scout on opening night, changed her last name to Paul, and signed with the studio.
Mrs. Strauss later told TV Guide she danced at all the movie studios until she put on weight. She trimmed down by running a mile every morning, she said, and took acting lessons. She appeared in several movies, including The Ten Commandments and Bigger Than Life, and appeared on television in Death Valley Days and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. In 1957, she was cast as the romantic interest of the masked rider in the Disney Studios television series Zorro.
A dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty of Russian descent, Mrs. Strauss often portrayed Mexican señoritas and American Indian maidens.
In 1958, she married Robert Strauss, whom she had met at a party at the Hollywood Bowl. She continued acting for a time before starting a family. Her last film was Gunfighters of Abilene in 1960.
In their early marriage, she and her husband lived in California and in Texas, where he was an executive for his family's firm, Pep Boys - Manny, Moe & Jack. The automotive parts and service chain had been cofounded in Philadelphia in 1921 by his father, Maurice "Moe" Strauss.
Mrs. Strauss and her husband moved to Bryn Mawr in 1970. While raising their children, she was an active parent at the Baldwin School and Episcopal Academy. "She was all about family," her daughter Kimberly said, "and never missed a tennis match or a swim meet."
After moving to Florida with her husband in the late 1980s, she supported several cultural and charitable institutions and was especially active as a patron of the Miami City Ballet. Edward Villella, the ballet's founding artistic director, told the Palm Beach Daily News last week, "Her passion and enthusiasm was infectious."
In addition to her husband and daughter, Mrs. Strauss is survived by a daughter, Wendy; and a son, Baron; and three grandchildren.
A funeral was held Friday, May 28, at Rubin Memorial Chapel in Boynton Beach, Fla. Entombment was in the Gardens in Boca Raton, Fla.