One would only have to receive a few of the cleaned fresh vegetables and fruits from her garden to appreciate how Triantafilia (Rose) Hanches (nee Stefanis) has given generously to her family, friends and church.
Fourna, in the prefecture of Evritania in Central Greece, was home for both Rose’s parents. It was a good life in Fourna. Her father George Stefanis owned a shoe repair shop and considerable land used for farming. He hired sharecroppers to help farm the land and apprentices to whom he taught shoe repair. Her mother Alexandra Stefanis (nee Papanikolaou) was the daughter of a priest. Rose was born on August 24, 1912. Regulations at the time exempted men with four or more children from military service. Thus, as the fourth child, she was very special to her father.
Konstantinos (Gus) Nicolaos Hatziyiannis (Hanches) was born on May 20, 1892. The name Hadzi is an indication that someone in the family had been on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Gus came to America through Ellis Island in 1906 at the age of 14. Gus’ father traveled with him and once Gus was accepted in the United States, his father returned to Greece reminding his son to send money home to the family. Gus spent four years in Norfolk, Virginia, where he had patriotis (friends from his home town). An invitation from his first cousin Jim Hanches in Spokane, Washington, told Gus Spokane was like Fourna, with trees, fresh water and beautiful surroundings. At 18 years of age, Gus boarded the train to Spokane and worked as a water boy on the railroad. When he was in his early 20s he opened his own business, the Busy Bee Fruit and Cigar Store. After that he became the proprietor of a shoe shine parlor. In the 1930 United States census, Gus was listed as a presser as he was now the owner of Hanches Cleaners located in downtown Spokane.
When Gus was in his late 30s, his father wrote saying it was time to get married and that he should come back to Fourna to choose a bride. At age 40 he returned to his village and visited the Stefanis family. He admired Rose as she was carrying a tray of food and drink. She did not look at him. Gus told his father, “That’s the one for me but she is too young.” His father replied, “Don’t worry she’ll get older.”
They were married on January 10, 1932, and after a honeymoon in Athens Gus returned to Spokane and Rose to Fourna. He returned for her in 1934 and together they sailed from Piraeus to Le Havre, France, visiting Paris before their voyage to America. Gus and Rose went to Winchester, Kentucky, so Rose could visit her sister. It was a short visit as Gus was anxious to get back to his cleaning business in Spokane. He remained in the cleaning business for the balance of his working years. The business prospered and Gus even sponsored a minor league baseball team that preceded the Spokane Indians.
Their daughter Alexandra (Alex) was born in 1934 and named after her maternal grandmother, not the usual tradition of the first daughter being named after the paternal grandmother. It is said that Gus’ hero was Alexander the Great; this may have influenced the name choice. A son Nicolas (Nick) followed in 1936 and a third child Jimmy was born in 1951.
Home was at Liberty Lake east of Spokane as the family wanted fresh air and open space. Rose was often lonely at Liberty Lake. With the help of an African-American maid who lived and worked next door, Rose learned English and how to cook American dishes, especially cakes. She looks back on that friendship with fondness. In 1935 the family moved to a new home in the Spokane Valley. It sat on five acres of land allowing Gus to become a “gentleman’s farmer.” Here Rose nurtured her garden, so large that it required a neighbor to come with his horse and plow to turn the soil. The family feasted on fresh vegetables, eggs, poultry and meat.
Spokane’s community hall was built in 1932 and Holy Trinity Church was established in 1941. Parishioners were served by visiting priests from Seattle until 1947 when Father Steve Zanis was assigned to the church. In those early years, when Spokane was without a permanent priest, Easter service was observed by the Hanches family by listening to Greek Orthodox church services on the radio broadcast from San Francisco, California, holding lighted candles by the radio as they sang Christos Anesti (Christ has Risen). Holy Trinity provided a cultural center for the Hanches family. Gus and Rose were very involved in the activities of the church and Gus spent hours going door-to-door to help raise money to build a new church. He and Rose were early founders and supporters of the annual Greek bazaar, as it was called in those days. Gus was the number one seller of dinner tickets selling at least 1000 each year. Rose worked tirelessly to help make Greek pastries and also got up at 3:00 in the morning to help prepare the dinners on festival days.
Rose participated in the Greek War Relief effort. In 1945 she was one of 27 founders of the Parnassus Chapter of the Daughters of Penelope, the women’s auxiliary of AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association). Gus was a life member of the Order of AHEPA.
Listening to Rose in the video segments as she recalls several experiences as a Greek immigrant gives some insight as to how she adapted to new ways in America. For the Hanches children assimilation was not a problem. At the same time they have proudly maintained Greek traditions and culture. In their eyes they have the best of both worlds.
When asked how she thinks her friends would remember her, Rose replied “Mrs. Hanches is a good worker and is happy to be there to help.” From the perspective of a 99-year-old, she says, “You have to be happy and have lots of friends and family around you.” That certainly has been her experience.By John and Joann Nicon, August 2011
1 Rose Stefanis Hanches
2 Gus (right) inside Hanches Cleaners with unknown assistant
3 Wedding of Rose and Gus, 1934
4 Alexandra, Rose and Nicolas, circa 1938
5 Rose, her brother George Stefanis, Nicolas, Alexandra and Gus
6 Greek War Relief in Spokane: (back) Vivian Deliganis, Mary Gulusis, Frances Kallas, Billie Papantone, Pauline Deliganis; (front) George Manos, Anne Papantone, Georgia Cassis, Beverly Marks, Callie Gulusis, Rose Hanches, Gus Alex; (standing) unknown man and John Kakakes.
7 Nicolas, Rose and Alexandra today
Photos 1 and 7 by John Nicon; all others from Hanches family collection SOURCES
Video interview by John and Joann Nicon, August 2011