My father, Demetrios (James) John Docsanes, from Tyrnavos in northern Greece, was born on November 26, 1888, and followed his two brothers to America although the exact date is unknown. The family name was changed from Harigipanis to Docsanes at Ellis Island. Dad became a naturalized citizen on June 5, 1930. Even as a youngster, I remember Dad having restaurants. He owned the Rainbow Café in Aberdeen, Washington, and worked 12 to 20 hours a day to make a living. There were good times and lean times in the restaurant business. As a family, we were never in want for anything. I remember missing my father so much because of the hours he worked. But l knew he was doing it for the family and that made it easier to bear. I remember that Dad hired African-Americans to work at the restaurant and that bothered a lot of people but not my father. He didn’t care about an individual‘s color just whether or not he was a good worker. The lean times hit hard because of the fast food businesses that were springing up everywhere and Dad finally had to close the Rainbow in 1956. I saw the sorrow in his eyes and even though he was in his 80s at the time, he wanted to be out in the community working with people and enjoying their company. After his retirement 1956 he worked at the Montesano Café in Montesano, Washington, until 1962 and at the Royal Café in Hoquiam, Washington, until 1964.
When he retired he sat in his easy chair watching television or reading the paper. My father’s hobby was fishing and he was good at it. The salmon had to be on the lookout when my father had a pole in his hands. He died on February 5, 1982, in Aberdeen and is buried at the Fern Hill Cemetery.
My mother, Gramato (Grace) Doumas, was born on April 25, 1915, and her family came from Agios Edipsos on the island of Evia in Greece. She was one of five children. As a small child in Agios Edipso her father got into a bar brawl in a local tavern. A knife ﬁght ensued and he was killed, leaving my grandmother to raise their children by herself. Dad returned to Greece in 1938, married Mother and they returned to the United States by ship. Mother originally did not want to come to America but was persuaded by her mother who wanted a better life for her daughter. Mother was a housewife. She would sew beautiful clothes for her children and there was always food on the table. Her greatest moment was when she became a citizen of the United States. On June 9, 1948, I saw the tears in her eyes when she took the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States of America.
My late uncle Stathi (Steve) lived in Agiokampos on the island of Evia. He was close to my mother and, wanting to do something nice for her children, left us an olive orchard and a large garden area. Since we lived in America and could not oversee the olive plantation and since others, unbeknownst to us, were using the olives for their own use, we gave the orchard to a relative in Athens.
My dad was an AHEPAN (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association) and my mother and I were in the Daughters of Penelope (AHEPA’s womens’ affiliate) for years. Living far away from a Greek Orthodox Church was difﬁcult for many. The closest church was in Tacoma, Washington, and its priest would come to Aberdeen occasionally and hold services wherever he could find a place to worship. I was so proud of my mother who could recite the entire service in Greek by heart. At least it seemed that way to me. She was in sync with the priest. It was wonderful. The Episcopal Church was the one most Greek people attended.
My parents spoke, read and wrote both the Greek and English languages fluently. Of the three children, I’m the only one that can speak Greek. My sister and brother understood quite a bit of Greek but never spoke it. I can read Greek somewhat but cannot write it. There were many different ethnic groups in Aberdeen. My best friends were Yugoslavian and Italian. There were Greek families in Aberdeen and Hoquiam but not many children. The Greek homes were in modest neighborhoods. There was a lot of Greek music played in our home. As we grew up, more and more “American tunes” were heard there.
Losing my parents was traumatic for me. My father died at the age of 93 in Aberdeen. My mother died on April 28, 2001 at the age of 85 in Tyrnavos, Greece. My sister Kathy, Mother and I were on a trip to Greece visiting relatives when Mother became seriously ill and passed away shortly thereafter. It was a horrible trip for my sister and me and after much deliberation we decided to leave my mother in the family burial plot in Tyrnavos rather than bring her body back to the United States. In 2010, my brother Nick, his daughter Tena, his niece Sherry and I traveled back to Greece to visit with relatives and bring closure for my brother who was not present when our mother passed away.
Kathy (Katina), the youngest, was born in 1945. She attended community college and began a very successful career with Sears, first as a stocking clerk, then in several other capacities, reaching the corporate level in Chicago, Illinois. She also was offered and accepted the head position of two of the largest Sears stores in Oregon. Kathy is married to Steve Jacobson and they have one son, Bret.
Nick, the middle child, graduated from high school, served in Vietnam and returned to find employment with Hoquiam Plywood where he had worked prior to his military enlistment. He made a respectable living, married Pamela and had two children, James and Tena. On June 26, 2013, at age 70, Nick passed away surrounded by family at St. Clair Hospital in Tacoma, Washington.
Mary (that’s me – the oldest of the Docsanes children) was born in Aberdeen, Washington, on September 30, 1938. School was a good experience for me. However, I didn’t speak English until the second grade so I had a bit of a problem in the ﬁrst grade trying to understand what the teacher was trying to teach me. After that, studies came fairly easily and I was in college preparatory classes during high school. I walked a mile to school and back home every day. I also participated in swimming and basketball. On the days I worked helping my dad at the restaurant, I walked a mile then as well. Being the oldest, I shouldered much of the household responsibility. I had to supervise my brother and sister and help my brother with his studies as needed. My parents did not overload me with chores that were beyond my ability to perform.
I never learned to make the various Greek dinners that my folks cooked because I was always busy with my studies and sports. My father said I was going to be the only child of his to go to university and he was correct. This made him very proud and I was glad I could do this for him. When I left for Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, my father gave me his only vehicle and I accepted it with the realization that he would now have to walk to work. My guilt at that prospect was beyond comprehension and I did not want to take the car but my father insisted. He said he didn’t mind walking to work and the walk would do him good.
My career has been in teaching and directing athletics. Originally I planned on becoming an anesthesiologist but had the opportunity to teach handicapped children in a swimming program and I became hooked on teaching. During my 31-year career, I was a middle school physical education teacher, a high school physical education teacher and an athletic director. I took a number of years off to raise three children and then went back to part time work for the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association as an eligibility chairperson for District 4 in Washington State, retiring from this position in July of 2014. In 2001 I became a Superior Court bailiff for in the city of Chehalis, Washington.
On December 18, 2008, I lost my husband, Karl Robert Erickson. He was a wonderful individual. We were blessed with three children. My son Donald Robert lives in Camarillo, California. He and his wife Sharon have two sons, Tyler and Carter. My daughter Debby Karen Lord lives in Gig Harbor,Washington, with her husband Tim, their daughter Alexandra and their son Demetri. My daughter Diana has two children, Nicholas and Simone. My only other relatives are cousins in both Evia and Tyrnavos, Greece, with whom we regularly communicate. Although a widow, I am not lonely. I come home to three cats that love me and show me affectionate attention always. I give thanks to the Lord for my blessings of which I have many.
LIFE AT HOME
Growing up in my home was a wonderful experience. Our parents were loving, sympathetic, understanding and above all caring and concerned about our well-being. Celebrations and traditions abounded. The Greek families would open their homes on a regular basis for parties and celebrations which included adults and children. I remember having a great time dancing in kitchens regardless of their size. I remember icons on the walls and incense on the shelf. Mother used incense for special occasions and every time she and l went to the cemetery to put flowers on the graves of Greek friends. There were also candles for special occasions and a Greek calendar on the wall.
A typical family dinner included many Greek dishes. It helped to have a great cook in my dad but my mother also was a fabulous chef and our meals were prepared with precision and care. Many recipes were handed down from Mom and Dad and godparents. Along with my Greek cookbook and inherited recipes, I have a wealth of Greek dishes that I can prepare and often do.
When I was about 12, my father and I ventured out to purchase a lamb for slaughter as my parents were going to have a barbeque at their home for the Greek community. Greek families took turns preparing dinners for their fellow Greeks. My father took me to a Greek man’s farm where we saw a number of beautiful, brown eyed lambs. Then it happened. My father said, “Chose one.” Well, no way was I going to pick one of those beautiful creatures to slaughter. My father insisted. Not to disobey my father, I closed my eyes, turned around about five or six times, and pointed. The lamb was chosen and I cried most of the way home. There was no way I was going to eat any part of that lamb.
I am very proud to be a Greek. My children who are half Greek and half Swedish consider themselves Greek. They have visited Greece and have loved the experience. My daughter Debby is truly my Greek child. She cooks Greek food better than me, attends the Greek Orthodox Church regularly and is involved in many Greek events. My children do not have Greek spouses but are strongly inﬂuenced by their Greek culture. My son’s wife cooks Greek food for him as he desires it. He looks Swedish but considers himself to be Greek. If you ask him his ethnicity, he will respond “Greek.”
Being Greek has defined my life in many wonderful ways. I have traveled to Greece so many times that I truly feel it is my second home. Could I live there? For a period of time, but my roots are in this wonderful country of ours.
I want people to remember my kindness to others. I have volunteered at the local hospital for many years. I also assist an older woman who desires to stay in her home. I care for the wellbeing of others. I want my grandchildren to remember a kind, loving grandmother. Even though I was married to a wonderful Swedish man, I have instilled in my children their Greek heritage. I wish I had taught them the Greek language but when one is married to someone of another ethnicity it is difﬁcult to accomplish that task. My children have scolded me for not teaching them Greek. I bear that burden. To the youth of today, I say, “Be proud of your heritage.” Be kind to others. Help others whenever possible. Love one another and be compassionate. Lend a hand to those that are not as fortunate as you.By Mary Docsanes Erickson and posted on May 2, 2015 PHOTOS
1 Mary, 2000
2 James Docsanes, circa 1933
3 James citizenship certificate, 1930
4 James with Yiayia and family in Greece, 1937
5 James and Grace wedding, 1937
6 Yiayia Doumas, circa 1936
7 Grace’s citizenship certificate, 1948
8 Agiokampos olive orchard, circa 1977
9 Grace Docsanes, circa 1985
10 Kathy, circa 2003
11 Nick, 2009
12 Nick, Kathy and Mary Docsanes, 1948
13 Mary as bailiff, circa 2005
14 Karl and Mary Erickson, 2000
15 Don and Sharon Erickson, 2015
16 Debby and Tmothy Lord, 2012
17 Diana and her son Nicholas, 2015
Photos from Docsanes family collection SOURCES
Writings of Mary Docsanes Erickson, 2014 with edits by John and Joann Nicon