For Angelina (nee Mulenos) Larson, it was her voice and musical talent that brought a zest for life that remains to this day. Her life has been a journey of many experiences and accomplishments, fueled by her energy and determination and punctuated by the gift of a wonderful voice.
Angelina’s father, Demosthenes, was a widower with a child. In 1907 he was encouraged to travel to the United States from Cefalonia, an island in the Ionian Sea, Greece, to earn money for himself and his family. Subsequently, several relatives encouraged him to remarry. They provided photos of three prospective brides. His choice was Aphrodite Nerantzini, also from Cefalonia, and a good bit younger than Demosthenes. They were married in 1922. The Mulenos (sometimes spelled Molinos or Moolinos) family lived in Seattle’s University District and Angelina remembers walking or taking the bus to school, church and to visit family friends.
She also recalls that their home seemed always to be filled with company, often sitting around the large oval dining room table. Her father was a shoemaker, but for Angelina he was more importantly a fine guitarist and they spent many hours together sharing their love of music. From an early age, singing was Angelina’s passion. She would stand by the table where her father had gathered friends to sing traditional Greek village tunes.
Aphrodite was a seamstress and made beautiful garments. She never wanted to leave Greece. Angelina remembers her mother crying often even after many years in Seattle and especially after Demosthenes’ untimely death in 1931 at the age of 52. She was left to raise three children, Demetra, Angelina and Gerasimos, by herself.
For Angelina, the hardships brought on by the unexpected death of her father were somewhat minimized by her passion for singing with her friends at Marshall Junior High and Roosevelt High School. At 14 years of age, with the aid of Greek friends, she qualified for a scholarship from the Seattle Music and Arts Foundation. She loved performing: school plays, AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association) events, Greek weddings, other churches and many community events. When necessary Angelina used her Greek when she didn’t know the Italian words for opera pieces. As an adult, her singing continued and she served as choir director at St. Demetrios Church in Seattle from 1964 to 1975, and again in 1987. She was also heavily involved with other church activities.
In 1973, at the age of 48, Angelina received an associate degree in Community Organization and Social Service from Edmonds Community College. Shortly thereafter she secured employment with the City of Seattle during Mayor Wes Uhlman’s administration where she was coordinator for the volunteers serving on the Seattle Women’s Commission. She continued with the City as pre-retirement planning coordinator where she helped men as well as women with retirement planning. There she met and married Henry (Hank) Larson. She retired in 1979.
With four children from her earlier marriage to Plato Kourkoumelis she now has 25 grandchildren and great grandchildren. Angelina has carefully maintained her family history. When interviewed in her home she had her mother’s needle arts including her “prika” (dowry) displayed. There were also several family photos and documents including her parents’ wedding certificates and their passenger records from their voyage from Greece. Recently she was instrumental in helping friends gather vital information needed to establish dual (Greek and American) citizenship.
Now in her 80s, Angelina still has the innate spirit and stamina that she believes is one of the best things about being Greek.By John and Joann Nicon, May 2011
1 Angelina Larson today
2 Father’s shoe store
3 Angelina, Gerasimos and Demetra Mulenos (in front) with Levanas family
5 Thelma Stasinos, Angelina and Fr. Homer Demopulos
6 Angelina at home with family documents, photos and artifacts
Photos 1 and 6 by John Nicon; all other photos from the Mulenos family collection SOURCES
Video interview by John and Joann Nicon, May 2011