The brothers’ names tell much of the story of their ancestors. Their maternal great-great grandfather Nicholas George, from the island of Leros, Greece, was among the first men of Hellenic background to settle in Seattle, Washington, in 1882. Their maternal great grandparents were George and Mary Nicholas who had two daughters, Irene and Eva. Irene married Demetrios (anglicized to Jim) Carkonen and they had five sons: George, Victor, Gus (the brothers’ father), Pete and Jim. Their mother, Athina, was the child of Diamantis and Evdokia Stratis. Thus, Paul Gus (Apostolos Constantinos) and his brothers, Dan James (Diamantis Demetrios) and Jim Gus (Demetrios Constantinos), have carried on four generations of given names in one way or another.
The Carkonen family, also known by the names of Karkoni, Carkonis and Carkoni, came from Kastri, near Nafplion in the Peloponnese area of Greece. The brothers’ paternal grandfather, Jim Carkonen, was born there in 1872 and sailed on the ship Maasdam to Ellis Island in the United States in 1900. Initially he went to Bedford, Connecticut, to be with the cousin who sponsored him. He then began working on the railroad in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and spent 16 months working his way to Seattle. Other Greeks from the area surrounding Kastri who settled in Seattle include the Farmasonis, Gregores and Carras families.
Jim, commonly known as “Big Jim” due to his 6 foot 2 inch height, owned the Britannia Tavern in Seattle’s Pioneer Square with Chris Gregores. Chris was tragically shot and killed and the tavern was eventually lost during the Depression. Jim spent the remainder of his work years as a janitor in the King County Courthouse and died in 1951. The brothers’ grandmother, Irene, was a forward-thinking Seattle-born Greek who developed a real estate business and took such risks as purchasing 200 feet of waterfront on Alki Point for $212.00. In his youth, Paul frequently visited his other grandmother, Evdokia, who lived in the Beacon Hill area of Seattle.
The births of Jim and Irene’s five sons spanned 14 years. As Jim was the fifth of five sons in his own family, as fate would have it, he decided to name all five of his own sons in the same birth order as his own brothers. Jim and Irene’s oldest, George, was a very successful photographer with the Seattle Times. Victor was in the dairy business and eventually settled in Elko, Nevada, where he worked in real estate and the dry cleaning business. Paul’s father, Gus (Constantine), joined the military at an early age and served in the Greek Battalion of the United States Army in Europe where he had 86 jumps as a paratrooper. Later, he sold cars at Gene Fiedler Chevrolet and Huling Brothers Buick in Seattle. Peter initially worked roofing houses and later started his own construction company. The youngest Carkonen, Jim, used his artistic talents in the interior design business.
The brothers’ parents, Gus and Athina (nee Stratis) were married in Seattle in 1945. Athina’s father, Diamantis Stratis, was from Bursa, Turkey, on the coast across from the island of Marmara. Shortly after Athina’s grandfather died, the newborn Athina along with her father Diamantis and mother Evdokia were exiled from the Island of Marmara in 1923 and shipped to the mainland of Greece near Thessaloniki as part of a population exchange. The new waterfront settlement for the refugees was called Neos (New) Marmaras, which is located on the Sithonia Peninsula. Athina made the Atlantic voyage to the east coast of the United States at age 11 and later came to Seattle where she worked as a hairdresser at the Olympic Hotel (now Fairmont Olympic). She fondly recalled “doing Eleanor Roosevelt’s hair” in preparation for an important State event.
APOSTOLOS (PAUL) CONSTANTINOS (GUS)
Paul was born on October 30, 1947 at Swedish Hospital in Seattle. Dan followed 18 months later and Jim 4½ years after Paul. The family lived on 57th Avenue Southwest in West Seattle until Paul was in the sixth grade.
Gus had met the Zambis boys from Raymond, Washington, while in the military. He wanted to get into his own business and in 1959 an opportunity presented itself in Hoquiam, Washington. With very little notice the family moved to Hoquiam where Gus operated The Greek’s New Royal Café with Chris Zambis, Louie George and Frank Genis. The “Royal” as it was called consisted of three sections in the same building: a darkened lounge with entertainment and fine dining; a bar; and a family-friendly informal café. The family lived in two rooms at the Emerson Hotel, two blocks from the café.
Paul has fond memories of his early years in Hoquiam. While competition was stiff for places in little league baseball in West Seattle, they couldn’t find enough players in Hoquiam. Paul and his brothers worked various odd jobs at the café, learning a few words from the Greek chefs: George Chimares, Chris Ballasiotes (see THE BROTHERS THREE under Making a Living) and Pete Holevas. With a flourishing lumber and fishing industry, there were many Greeks in the surrounding communities of Aberdeen, Raymond, South Bend, Chehalis and Cosmopolis. Easter celebrations were held in the Moose Hall parking lot with lamb roasting on an open spit. Fr. Anthony Tomaras from Tacoma, Washington, conducted church services in the Episcopal Church. Greeks on their way to the Pacific Ocean from the Seattle area would stop at the “Royal” which operated until it was demolished by urban renewal in 1967. Gus humorously referred to the city demolition project as “bourbon removal.” At that time Gus and Athina relocated their family from Hoquiam to Federal Way, Washington.
English was the primary language in the Carkonen home. When Paul’s grandmother visited the family, he would be exposed to more of the Greek language. Paul enjoyed having his friends visit and share the food Athina would prepare for them. Gus and Athina would use Greek when they didn’t want their boys to know what they were saying.
Paul completed high school in Hoquiam and then attended Grays Harbor Community College. When his parents moved back to the Seattle area, he benefited from his parents’ Greek connections working at various jobs, including two summers as a brakeman on the railroad. He also worked for a while at the city garbage dump in Midway (south of Seattle) and would stay with his grandmother Irene. He completed college at Washington State University in 1969 and began his first job in the Trust Department of Peoples Bank. Working in downtown Seattle, wearing a suit and tie and owning a car made Paul feel like he was in heaven.
In 1954, after her husband’s passing, grandmother Irene Carkonen married Gust Panos who became godfather to Paul’s brother Jim. Paul became involved in Seattle’s Greek community by taking his grandmother and Gust to St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church. He remembers meeting the Barbas, Rakus and Platis families. He shared an apartment with his brother Dan and a friend, Nick Diafos. While assigned to a bank branch office in the Renton/Skyway area, Paul recalls having lunch with John Angel, an elder in the Greek community, and being shown photos of potential Greek brides. When he and Nick Diafos began a three-week tour of Greece and Turkey, the importance of his Greek heritage was crystalized and Paul chose to extend his vacation for three additional weeks. A highlight of the trip was dining with Nick’s grandmother, Jenny Diafos, at the Hilton Hotel in Istanbul. Back in Seattle, he met Nick’s sisters Paulette and Jenise. He later visited Paulette while she was living in Vancouver, British Columbia. A two-year romance followed and Paulette was readily embraced by the entire Carkonen clan. They were married in 1974 at St. Demetrios.
Paul knew he wanted to be in the securities business but needed some sales experience. He obtained that experience as assistant manager at the Broadway branch of Peoples Bank in Seattle when credit cards were first being introduced and later with Xerox for two years where he learned a great deal about sales and business presentations. He joined Smith-Barney in 1975 and began a 29-year career which lasted through a number of mergers and acquisitions.
His has been a rewarding career and has allowed him to help many people with their financial planning. He has served as executor for over 50 estates. He attended the New York Institute of Finance becoming a certified financial planner and analyst and it was “always back to school” to maintain and improve his knowledge. He values the relationships he established with people from many backgrounds and religions, especially the culture and personal chemistry he shares with many Greek clients. Paul was recognized as one of Barron’s top 100 brokers in the United States and retired in 2010 as one of the firm’s top portfolio directors. He has seen many ups and downs in the financial market and believes that Wall Street has some of the brightest financial experts despite a recent and somewhat tarnished reputation. He knows that capitalism works for those willing to work hard toward financial success.
Paul and Paulette have raised four children: Shawn, Jenise, Dina and Nick. They are pleased to have provided a good education for them and to see them successful in adulthood. They derive a great deal of pleasure being with their five grandchildren and enjoy seeing their children maintain the Greek culture and traditions: dance, music, church and social events.
Greek “connections” have proven important to Paul not only in his work but in personal experiences. In the video segment, Another Greek Connection, Paul tells a colorful story of forgetting his wallet in the hotel when dining at an upscale restaurant in New York City and how the Greek bus boy loaned him money to pay for the meal.
Paul recalls a favorite saying from his father – “pan metron ariston” (everything in moderation). He believes one can’t force children to maintain their Greek traditions. It has to come from within. Parents can share Greek traditions and show their enjoyment, but children may have to become adults before they can gain a full appreciation of their Greek heritage.
DIAMANTIS (DAN) DEMETRIOS (JAMES)
Just 18 months younger than Paul, Dan enjoyed many of the same Greek experiences while growing up. They also attended the same elementary and high schools and shared many of the same friends.
Upon graduating high school, Dan worked in construction for his Uncle Pete prior to enlisting in the United States Air Force. Following discharge, he returned to the Seattle area and completed a business degree. He was hired by K-2 Ski Corporation in its management trainee program, where he supervised production and coordinated the marketing department, while continuing his formal business education.
He went to work for the Litton Corporation as a sales and marketing representative during the electronic technology boom. In 1975, Dan met Leah Kangles, the granddaughter of Seattle Greek pioneers, Helen and Nick Carras. Following their marriage in 1976, Leah and Dan enjoyed a six-month honeymoon in Greece, immersed in their shared cultural heritage. Upon their return, the newlyweds lived in Western Canada among Leah’s paternal Girgulis and Kangles families. Dan continued with Litton and opened a branch office of the Litton Corporation while Leah pursued her career as a speech pathologist, serving on the admissions board at a local hospital and later for the public schools.
Then Dan and Leah followed their grandfathers and fathers into the hospitality industry designing, building and operating three locations of Uncle Dan’s restaurants while living in Canada. During this time, their son Constantine (Tyke) James was born. In late 1980, the business was sold and the growing family returned to Seattle, where Danika (Evdokia) Rose, was born in 1981. Dan applied his management, marketing and financial skills as State Director for the Savings Bonds Marketing Office of the United States Treasury Department where he remained until retirement in 2003. Based in Portland, Oregon, Dan directed the program for the western United States. As part of a national marketing effort, he enjoyed many years of travel throughout the United States.
Once retired, Dan and Leah relocated to Arizona, where they worked together to design and build several homes and indulged their love of family and travel with frequent trips to Seattle, where their children Tyke and Danika live. Danika has given her parents two grandsons. Despite the distances, Dan remains close to his brothers with frequent visits to Palm Desert, California, and Sun Valley, Idaho. Dan proudly served as koumbaro (sponsor or best man) for both of his brothers at their weddings and, following tradition, he and Leah are godparents to Jim and Aimee’s daughter, Sophia.
DEMETRIOS (JAMES OR JIM) CONSTANTINOS (GUS)
While Paul and Dan finished high school in Hoquiam, Jim (Demetrios) Carkonen, youngest of the brothers, completed high school at Federal Way, Washington, where their father Gus began a new career in real estate and Athina a 13-year employment with Gai’s Bakery.
Jim accepted an athletic scholarship to play basketball at nearby Tacoma Community College where the 6 foot 7 inch forward completed a 32 wins and 2 loss state championship season in 1971 and was later inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007. Jim continued his studies at Washington State University (WSU) earning a degree in journalism from the Edward R. Murrow School of Communications in 1974.
Jim met the love of his life, Aimee Evans, at WSU and they married in 1988. Jim worked exclusively in the office automation industry. More than half of his 28 years was in sales and sales management with Wang Computers, specializing in word processing. It was a profitable and rapidly-growing industry that allowed him to have fun and see the world. Jim was also able to build a home in the Alki Point area of West Seattle near the same location where his grandfather by the same name first settled in 1901. Aimee enjoyed an adventurous 26-year career as a flight attendant with United Airlines. The couple’s child, Sophia Athina, was born in 1994 and, upon their simultaneous retirements from Wang and United, they moved to Sun Valley in 1999 where Sophia was raised within the remote mountain environs of central Idaho. In retirement, Jim enjoyed several part-time occupations in Sun Valley, including guided fly-fishing, residential real estate and coaching basketball at the local high school. Aimee enjoyed a second and rewarding nine-year career as librarian of the local elementary school. Sophia excelled in ballet, skating, modeling, volleyball and academics before pursuing her degree from Tufts University near Boston, Massachusetts. A family highlight was the summer of 2007 when the threesome traveled to Greece to explore family origins in Jim’s grandfather’s village of Kastri and mother’s village of Neos Marmaras. Sophia chronicled the epic six-week journey in a two-hour DVD for future generations to enjoy. As a continuation of her cultural and religious exploration, Sophia later enjoyed a second solo trip to Greece to attend a summer program at the Ionian Village located on the shores of the Ionian Sea in the western Peloponnese.
Jim believes strongly in family and preservation of Greek traditions. In a village tradition long held by his mother in welcoming in the New Year, Jim, Aimee and Sophia open every single door and window of their home while chanting the phrase “figia apo etho palyio aiera, ke ella mesa fresco” (get out of here old air, and welcome in the new freshness).
Jim’s favorite Greek memories include: his first trip on an airplane in 1969 at 17 years old to tour Greece with his mother and father; his grandmother Evdokia hand-snapping the ends of a 10 pound bag of string beans in rapid succession; the family excitement of his grandfather returning from his work on a transoceanic ship after many months at sea; the loud horio (village) music, dance and raucous political arguments among uncles at the many elaborate eight-course Easter dinners that would begin at noon and have no known end; playing basketball for the AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association) All-Star team in national Greek tournaments and conventions; flipping gyros with Terry Karis (See MAKING GOOD PAREA under Keeping Community) at the annual St. Demetrios Greek festival in while sneaking shots of ouzo (Greek anise-flavored brandy) from under the grill; Father Homer Demopulos officiating at his wedding; Father John Angelis presiding over the baptism of baby Sophia; Jim’s godfather Gust Panos forcefully shoving a name day silver dollar in the palm of his hand while imploring him to get married and have a family; Paul and Paulette’s endless efforts hosting many family functions; Tops 24 restaurant on First Hill in Seattle with bouzouki (Greek long-neck, plucked-string instrument) and belly dancers on a Friday night, followed by a highly out of control 4,5,6 dice game after hours; watching Gus and Athina dancing and singing in the kitchen while preparing the Sunday family feast!
“Finding Good Fortune” is the blessing of being born into such a wonderful family.
1 Paul Carkonen, 2012
2 Gus Carkonen with his sons, Jim, Dan, Paul, 1958
3 Outdoor gathering, grandfather Jim Carkonen (center with hat and tie), circa 1900
4 Great grandparents (l-r) rear: Mary Nicholas, George Tandu Nicholas; front: grandmother Irene, Eva Simeon, circa 1900
5 Gus and Athena wedding (l-r) Diamantis Stratis, Evdokia Stratis, Athina, Gus, November 1945
6 Athina and Gus, 1970
7 Paul’s baptism (l-r) unknown, Paul, grandmother Irene, uncle Victor, cousin Dennis Carkonen, Fr. Christoforos Charouhas, Fr. Charalambos Gavalas, 1947
8 Carkonen brothers (l-r) Paul, Dan, Jim, circa 1956
9 Extended Carkonen family (l-r) rear: Areti Denos, Christine Carkonen, Irene Carkonen, Jim Mandas, Irene Mandas, Dennis Carkonen, Gust Panos, Nick Panos, George Panos; front: Victor Carkonen, Peter Carkonen, Mike Carkonen, Gary Carkonen, Georgi Carkonen, Wendy Carkonen, Jim Carkonen, Kay Carkonen, Bing Carkonen, 1961.
10 Paul Carkonen family (l-r) Paulette, Jenise, Shawn, Nick, Dina, Paul, 1993
11 Paul on Mediterranean cruise, 2011
12 Paul and Paulette at home, 2012
13 Leah and Dan, 1982
14 Tyke and Danika, 2006
15 Jim with Paul and Dan, 1954
16 Jim in Evzone (Greek soldier) uniform, 1954
17 Group basketball photo at Tacoma Community College, (Jim third from right at rear with trophy), 1971
18 Aimee and Jim, 1973
19 Aimee, Jim and Sophia, 2012
20 Paul, Gus, Jim, Athina, Dan Carkonen, 1960s
Photo 1 and 12 by John Nicon; all others from Carkonen family collection SOURCES
Video interview by John and Joann Nicon, October 2012; “The Church Bell” story by Paul Carkonen about his grandfather, 1950s; family tree documents prepared by Paul Carkonen