2009-07-15 / Features

Athanasiades Changed The Face Of Astoria

BY CATHERINE TSOUNIS

Maria Athanasiades. Maria Athanasiades. "It is with great sorrow that we announce the passing of Maria Athanasiades on July 7, 2009," said Christos Tzelios. "Mrs. Athanasiades was a co-founder of the Athanasiades cultural Foundation, Inc. and dynamic patriot. She was active to the last minute of her life and passed away in peace. Her memorial service was held at Antonopoulos Funeral Home, Ditmars Boulevard at 38th Street, Astoria, on Thursday, July 9. The visiting hours were form 2 to 8 p.m."

The Athanasiades Cultural Foundation has awarded scholarships to outstanding students for 16 years. The Foundations awards ceremony held every thanksgiving weekend has promoted a positive self image among participating college students.

Vivi Tzelios, a close friend says, "Maria lived her entire life religiously. The Athanasiades helped persons obtain their American citizenship papers and green cards so they could contribute to American society. They never asked for anything in return. They gave with their heart." The folk proverb from the Aegean Islands is "Do good and then forget it by throwing it into the sea" (Kano to kalo and petaxe to sto gialo). Stelios Panagopoulos, a neighbor said "Maria performed many philanthropies. I deeply admire her and Kostas for speaking the truth of all injustices."

Maria Athanasiades roots were from the Black Sea coast of Pontos. She grew up in Thessaloniki, fluent in Pontiaka, an ancient Greek dialect. She immigrated to Australia. In 1959, she married Kostas Athanasiades. She was an educated woman in the Health Care Sciences as a nurse. She continued to practice this skill when she immigrated to the United States.

The couple were folk heroes to first and second generation Americans. Everyone felt a celebrity walked 37th Street between 31st and 30th Avenues, when Kostas Athanasiades and Archimandrite Germanos Polyzoides (the founder of St. Demetrios Cathedral) appeared. I personally became friends with Maria through Christos and Vivi Tzelios, who adored the Athanasiades couple. They literally gave away a fortune to college students in the United States, Greece and Greek Epirus, Albania.

Maria Athanasiades particularly loved the St. John's University Modern Greek scholar Keily Abreu, a Caribbean- American student, who delivered a speech in Modern Greek at one of their socials. She aided many, middle class students, who are forgotten in society, because they are neither rich nor poor. They changed the scope of Greek-American scholarships by not looking at the income of the students, just academic record and their dedication to Modern Greek language and culture. Today, the middle class is suffering, paying taxes and receiving little assistance from the government and college institutions. Maria and Kostas understood the injustice of all governments from the left and right. Their Athanasiades Foundation is a beacon of light to students.

Elegant, aristocratic, a woman of few words but monumental works, . Maria Athanasiades will be remembered by the college youth she aided, who are taking their place in society.

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