Monday, March 25, 2013

Steve, Faith & March 25th

(Reprinted from The Basilian -- March 2013, Stockton, CA)
"Family Memories & Histories, Let’s Not Forget Them!"
By Paula Xanthopoulou
Steve & Faith
March 1st would have been my dad Steve Xanttopoulos’ 93rd birthday and on March 25th we celebrate Greek Independence Day. In that spirit, here is a photo of my father (about 6 years-old?) and his sister Faith in traditional costumes taken in Naoussa circa 1926, about 3 years before they would land in San Francisco. They may have feared leaving all and everything they knew behind, even for the States -- but they lived their American Dreams to the fullest, primarily as part of the Greek community in Stockton, California.

While I live in Miami, Florida, I find that my heart is very often in Stockton – where I lived with my parents through graduation from UOP in 1967. Indeed, I have just been invited to my 50th Stagg High School reunion in September. Yikes!

Stockton is where my family memories are, especially as members of St. Basil’s Greek Orthodox Church – where my parents Angeline (Sarris) and Steve Xanttopoulos were married in 1942, where my brothers (George and Bill) and I were baptized, and where my parents’ funeral services were held in 2002 and 2007. More recently, I was moved during the special services for receiving the holy relic of St. Basil, truly someone to look up to.

Our lives growing up revolved around the church. I remember the Friday nights before Easter -- at the church on Stanislaus Street – when it was me and my Mom singing the hymns while she played the organ. I loved Greek School (despite getting carsick each time we drove across town), and my favorite Sunday School teachers were Zoi Arvanitis and Harriet Frances. My mother was a devoted, all-purpose volunteer/organizer, especially for the making of festival pastries. My father typically counted the years of his life according to the number of St. Basil’s priests he had worked with (Father Luke was #17) and the number of festivals he had worked on (47). They would have loved being at Festival #50 and at my nephew Alex’s recent wedding in Virginia.

Church Ladies 1965
Recently I came across my parent’s Wedding License. It was signed by my dad’s uncle, Christ Huntalas, and by George Lekos, who would later become my godfather; it was also signed by Rev.D. Smyrnopoulos. I have also saved a photo of certain Stockton Greek Church Ladies visiting Father Smyrnopoulos in retirement somewhere near Athens in 1965; they were (from left-to-right) my grandmothers Pauline Xanttopulos and Evghenia Sarris, Agapi Eliopoulos(back), Pauline's sister Eleni Huntalas, and my aunt Faith Pappas. In 1974, I went with Aunt Faith and Uncle Pete Pappas to visit Kiparissi, Lakonias, where Uncle Pete and my grandfather George Sarris were born; we had to go by boat, since there was no road until 1980. Almost 40 years later (last November), I finally went back to that village; this time by the bus that goes there twice-a-week. And while in Stockton this past Christmas, I spoke about Kiparissi with Andy Pappas as we reminisced about his dad and our “Uncle George,” Pete’s brother. In some ways, we came full circle…

I having been collecting documents, stories, information and photos of my family on both sides for some time because I feel a strong obligation to do what I can so that their stories and history not be forgotten – and also because it’s part of a bigger story of Greeks in Stockton and their own histories in the “The Old Country.” I sincerely hope that others have been doing the same.

Hronia polla, kai kala!

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