The Secret of Her Success

Strong Family Work Ethic Motivates Top Selling Real Estate Agent

 By Linda McCarty
The Winchester Star
Edition Staff Writer

Teresa Lazazzera was voted "Most Likely to Succeed" for the James Wood High School Class of 1975.

Classmates who have kept tabs on Teresa's life would probably say their prediction came true.

Real estate agent Teresa Lazazzera Strohmeyer can work anywhere - even the kitchen counter at her home near Clearbrook. Her phone and pager ring all day. Teresa and her husband, Joe Strohmeyer (below), both worked as newspaper journalists before quitting to become real estate agents. "Teresa is the accidental Realtor and I'm the reluctant Realtor," Joe said
(photos by Rick Foster)
Teresa, 46, has earned a bachelor's degree and two master's degrees. She has traveled abroad, co-authored a book, speaks Italian, and is a fantastic cook. If that wasn't enough, she's a highly successful real estate agent and property owner who works alongside her loving, supportive husband.

Recently, her real estate team at ERA Oakcrest Realty in Winchester was recognized as the No. I ERA team in the United States for the number of transactions it closed from January through November 2003.

Even with all these accomplishments and accolades, the lifelong Frederick County resident doesn't feel successful.

"I think of success as a journey, not a destination," Teresa said from the 37-acre Clearbrook area family farm she shares with her husband, Joe Strohmeyer, and their two dogs and two cats.

Teresa traces her philosophy to living in a multigenerational family and paying close attention to their strong work ethics.

Teresa's late father, Giovanni Lazazzera, immigrated to the United States in 1932 from his native Italy. He believed people should prove themselves by being successful.

"If you work hard," he once said, "you'll get your reward in the end. But sometimes it's a lifetime doing it."

Some people are amazed, or even overwhelmed, by Teresa's endless energy.

"Teresa is very energetic and extremely motivated," said Jim Vickers, owner of The Oakcrest Companies, which includes ERA Oakcrest Realty. "She's one of the first to come to the office in the morning and one of the last to leave."

Teresa exhibited the same energy when she was a staff writer at The Winchester Star.

"Teresa was the hardest-working reporter I've ever seen and the best I reporter I've ever seen," said Ron Morris, former managing editor at The Star. "When she had an assignment, she didn't stop until she finished. I'm sure she got tired, but she never showed it."

While Teresa was working at The Star, she and Handley Regional Library Archivist Rebecca A. Ebert wrote "Frederick County, Virginia: From the Frontier to the Future," a history book written for the county's 250th anniversary.

Is Teresa a driven woman?

Not likely. She just keeps in mind her father's words and knows a lifetime might not be long enough to do all she wants to do.

Teresa, an only child, is the first member of her immediate family to be born in the United States, and the only one to go to school beyond the fifth grade

She earned a bachelor's degree in history and Italian at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. She earned a master's degree in Italian at the University of California Los Angeles and another in journalism at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Teresa has documented her family's history by paying attention to family stories told while she was growing up.

The first Lazazzera to arrive in the United States was Teresa's great ­grandfather, Giovanni, who sailed from Italy past the Statue of Liberty in about 1900 and settled in New York City, where he operated a saloon in the Bronx.

Achille Lazazzera, Teresa's great-uncle, soon join his father.

In about 1920, Achille came to Bunker Hill, W.Va., where another Italian immigrant got him a job at a stone quarry.

After breaking his leg in a quarry accident, Achille moved to Winchester and found a job shining shoes.

"That's how we got to Winchester," Teresa said.

It wasn't long before Achille was joined by other members of his family, including his brother, Domenico, who was Teresa's grandfather. Her Uncle Carmine Passucci, her father's brother-in-law, arrived in 1922 and her father settled here 10 years later.

By the time Teresa's father and uncle arrived in Winchester, Achille had bought the Washington Shoeshine and Hat Cleaning Parlor, located at the site of Snow White Grill on the Loudoun Street Mall.

Teresa's grandfather, who died in 1942, cleaned hats for Achille. Her father and uncle shined shoes until they became barbers and opened the Washington Barber Shop on Piccadilly Street.

When all the men were established in business, they sent for their wives.

Teresa's father, who wasn't married, went on vacation in 1955 to his hometown in Italy and met Edilia Tinaburri.

The couple were married in early 1956 and she came to live in the home that Giovanni and Carmine had built on Cedar Hill Road, northwest of Clearbrook.

Giovanni and Carmine bought the farm, known as Oak Shade Farm, in the late 1930s.

The farm was home to not only Teresa's father and uncle, but also her paternal grandmother, Maria Teresa, and Carmine's wife, Maria Rosa.

While building the brick house, the family lived in an old log and clapboard house.

"We used the stone from the chimney in the old house for our fireplace in the great-room," Teresa said of the addition she and Joe had built in 1996.

Teresa left home when she went to college and thought she would stay a while longer in California after earning her second master's degree.

But her father became ill with Lou Gehrig's disease, and in 1984 she drove home in an Alfa Romeo, which she still keeps in storage. Her father died in 1989.

Teresa was a staff writer at The Winchester Star, when she met Joe, who was the city editor at the Northern Virginia Daily. They were married in 1988.

After the Strohmeyers married, they along with Teresa's mother began purchasing rental property.

"I took a real estate class to help me with our rentals, and real estate kind of got in my blood," Teresa said.

Even though she had been promoted to assistant city editor, Teresa, resigned from The Star in 1993 and became a real estate agent.

"I had the misconception that real estate would be easier than journalism, but it's harder," Teresa said.

Journalism was stressful, Teresa said, because it was difficult to write about people in her hometown.

"If you do your journalism job well, someone is going to be angry with you all the time, particularly if you are a political writer and cover city government like I did," Teresa said. "It's hard to be thick-skinned around people you've always known."

But real estate, she said, is harder because there's no regular paycheck.

"A real estate agent is not an employee. We work on commission and have to pay all of our expenses. There is a lot of competition and you have to work hard."

The Strohmeyers were living in Winchester in 1996, when they moved to the farm to help Teresa's mother, who was fighting breast cancer. She died a year later, as did Teresa's Aunt Maria Rosa. Joe and Teresa took care of Uncle Carmine until he died in 1998.

The Strohmeyers are now heavily invested in real estate and have formed a team with two other agents. Joe, who left his job as managing editor of the Northern Virginia Daily in 1999, is also a licensed real estate agent. He is the team's marketing coordinator and manages the couple's 14 rental properties. He also serves on the board of directors for the Winchester Property Owners Association, a group of Winchester landlords and property managers with interest in public policies regarding rental property.

"Teresa is the accidental Realtor and I'm the reluctant Realtor," Joe said.

Although success isn't a part of Teresa's vocabulary, creativity is.

"Putting real estate deals together involves creativity because when I get a listing, I have to think how to market the property," Teresa said. "It's also creative finding the right property for the right buyer. And finding financing can also be creative."

Teresa doesn't believe she will ever fulfill her classmates prediction of "Most Likely to Succeed."

"I doubt I'll ever think I've succeeded, because I'll always feel like I want to create something else. I like putting things together and creating and having a result," Teresa said, just before grabbing her briefcase and walking out the door. She won't be home until after dark.

126 N. Kent Street, Winchester, VA  22601

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