Fifty-six years after a proxenia (arranged marriage), Pete and Carol Mykris’ marriage is testimony to their love for and patience with each other. Their contributions to Seattle, Washington’s Greek community give further evidence of their love for others.
Pete’s family story is best told in a booklet from the Mykris Family Reunion which took place in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, in 2003. Excerpts from that booklet are quoted here along with Pete’s comments. Pete’s parents Nick and Assimina “met in Egypt where he worked in a restaurant” in Port Said and she worked as a nanny and became the head cook for a very wealthy family. “Nick was born on the island of Samos, Greece, September 14, 1889, to Mike and Kaliope Makri.” Pete’s great grandparents were Nick and Sofia. The Mykris name, while not uncommon in Greece, has also been spelled Makri, Mikris, Makris, Mekris or Macris. Nick went to Alexandria, Egypt, in 1904 at the age of 15 and worked in a grocery store. In 1906 he went to Cairo, Egypt, for a better job, working in a restaurant and attending night school. In 1908 he returned to Greece and subsequently traveled to South Africa, again working in a restaurant. He then returned to Cairo in 1912 as the hot climate was too extreme. In Cairo on June 23, 1913, he married Assimina Yiambanis, with whom he had been corresponding. Nick took his wife to Andros, Greece, to stay with her parents while he went to America to earn passage for her. When Nick arrived in the United States in 1914, he worked for his uncle in Warren, Ohio, where his uncle was a section foreman on the Pacific Railroad. He then moved to Des Moines, Iowa, and from there to North Platte, Nebraska. “Assimina Mykris was separated for over six years from her husband, while he worked to save for her passage and the First World War to end. She finally arrived at Ellis Island in 1920. Assimina Yiambanis Mykris was born on the island of Andros, Greece, in the small village of Corthi, August 1, 1890. Her parents were James and Anna Yiambanis. Assimina arrived at Ellis Island with her daughter Ann and would join her husband Nick who immigrated earlier. The first thing Assimina acquired in the land of opportunity was a new name, “Jessie,” one that the immigration officer could pronounce. Speaking no English but with her new name pinned to her lapel she started out on a new life in a new land.”
“In America Nick worked for the railroad and the family moved with the job, living in Lemoyne and Dix, Nebraska, until 1938. In 1938 they moved to Pine Bluffs, Wyoming. Nick retired from the railroad in 1955 and he and Jessie moved to Renton, Washington. Nick and Jessie lived in the Renton area until Jessie passed away in 1976, at the age of 85. Jessie made one trip back to her native Greece in 1975. This time she flew and enjoyed the trip, no seasickness.” Nick moved into a retirement center and lived there until his health failed. He then moved into a nursing home and passed away in 1986 at the age of 97. Nick and Jessie were blessed with a total of eight children, six surviving today: Ann Mykris Williams (July 25, 1914 to August 2, 1999), Dora Mykris Zerwoodis (January 20, 1923), Cleo Mykris Liapis (July 18, 1924), Mike Nick Mykris (December 15, 1925), Pauline Mykris (1927 – 1930), James Earl Mykris (February 7, 1929), Argie Lee Mykris Hayes (February 3, 1932), Pete Nick Mykris (March 13, 1934).” Pete (Panagioti) was born in Dix, Nebraska, and when the family moved to Pine Bluff, Wyoming, they were the only Greek family there. Pete grew up fully understanding the Greek language but, with no one outside the family with whom to speak Greek, his primary language was English. He graduated from high school in Pine Bluff in May of 1953. Perceiving no opportunities in Wyoming, Pete chose to try his luck in Washington State and came to stay with his sister Dora and her husband Sam Zerwoodis. Initially he worked for his brother-in-law at the Spring Hill Market in Renton, just south of Seattle. In 1954 he joined the United States Army and was stationed at Fort Ord, California, for basic training, then at Fort Gordon, Georgia, for training in the signal corps. Pete was then sent to Seattle and worked for the federal government for Alaska communication for the Army. He also continued to help at the Spring Hill Market. In 1956 Pete purchased a home in Skyway, near Renton, and his brother Jim and their parents moved in with them. After he was discharged Pete opened his first business, a grocery store in Skyway, with his brother-in-law Sam. In December of 1964 their lease expired and Pete bought the Pickwick tavern in West Seattle. He sold the tavern in 1967 and managed a grocery store with Bob Harris. In 1968 Pete bought Bill Kaimakis’ share of the partnership in the Publix Lunch at Fifth and King in Seattle’s international district. It was previously owned by Carol’s grandfather Thomas Lavaris and uncle Vasili Lavaris. Pete’s partners were Tom Lambros and Pete Routos. In 1990 Lambros had passed away when Pete Routos (little Pete) and Pete Mykris (big Pete) decided to close the Publix and retire. Pete enjoyed salt water salmon fishing and has organized bus trips for the Publix customers. In retirement he has enjoyed all forms of fishing and spent time volunteering at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Seattle. He was on the parish council for six years and was one of the buyers for the annual church festival. He was the buyer and cook for All Saints Camp at Raft Island for 12 years and from 1995 to 2008 was the buyer and cook for Kids ‘N Cancer camp for children with cancer and their families. In 2004 he received the “Citizen of the Year” award for his work at St. Demetrios.
Carol (Kalliroi) Spyridis was born in Ioannina, Greece, on November 11, 1938. Her family was originally from Sopiki, just inside Albania from northwest Greece. The men in the family were wine barrel makers and would travel all over Greece making barrels and performing other carpentry work while the women worked the horafia (fields) raising food for the family. Carol’s maternal grandfather, Thomas Lavaris, had come to the United States in 1917 following the death of his first wife Anastasia Karagiani. He returned to Greece in 1920 and married Kalliope Demanalis in the 1920s. He returned to the United States, but with no work during the Depression he moved from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Seattle where he had a cousin, Mike Makos and went into business with Alex Zouzoulas and John Hatjemihalis at the Publix Lunch at 501 King Street. Her parents were Gregorios and Efthemia (nee Lavaris) Gegas/Spyridis. The family name was originally Gegas. However, Gregori had escaped from the Germans during World War II. He feared he would be captured and it seemed prudent to change his name. Since he had a grandfather named Spiro the name was changed to Spyridis on December 12, 1943, the date honoring St. Spyridon. Carol’s memories of Greece are both happy and sad. At the age of seven, in the fall of 1944, she left the village as the family home had been set on fire by the Germans. The home had just been built and children were playing on her father’s name day (the date honoring St. Gregory) when voices cried out “the Germans are coming, the Germans are coming.” The men in the village left so as not to be captured. Carol and the other family members hid in a nearby summer home in Selliani where her mother’s family raised sheep. Gregori’s sister refused to leave the village and was killed by the Germans which the family did not know until Gregori returned several days later to be with them. From there Gregori left the village to be with Vasili Lavaris in Thessaloniki and that was when the family name was changed from Gegas to Spyridis. Meanwhile, Carol stayed with her mother’s family while many young men were being recruited to become communists and others were taken to concentration camps. Finally, a cousin came and told the family they must leave quickly for Greece. Relatives helped pack the few family belongings. The children were dressed in double layers of clothing with her brother Tom dressed as a girl. Carol remembers how cold her feet were as they left the village. On the way to Droumathes the German and Greek armies were on opposite sides of the border as the family passed through. The Germans fired to stop the family and the Greek soldiers fired back then ran to help the family. For Carol it was a miracle but all passed safely into Greece. Fortunately, Carol’s yiayias (grandmothers) who remained in Sopiki were not informed of the family’s escape plans and, when they were interrogated by the Germans, they honestly could not provide any information. In Droumathes, a family friend, Vasili Spiropoulos, initially denied any knowledge of the family as he was a communist and feared he would be prosecuted if he provided any assistance. He later helped them find shelter in a barn for protection. The Red Cross was then contacted and located Efthemia’s brother, Vasili Lavaris, then a professor of agriculture in Thessaloniki. Lavaris in turn found Gregori there and he was reunited with his family a few days later. Thomas Lavaris returned to Greece in 1933, went back to Seattle in 1939, returned again to Greece in 1943 and brought his son Vasili and Carol’s father Gregori from Greece to Seattle in 1947. Gregori then brought his oldest son Tom to Seattle. Carol’s younger siblings were Louie, Xrisavgi and Panagioti who died as a baby in Greece. In 1950 the family was in Athens preparing for their passage to the United States. Xrisavgi, the younger sister was denied passage because she had spinal meningitis and died in August of that year. The following November, Carol, her mother and her brother Louie sailed together and arrived at Ellis Island in New York on November 8, 1950. Carol was amazed by the tall buildings and wondered how people reached the top floor until she was told about the elevators. On the three-day train trip west Efthemia said pou pigenome (where are we going) not realizing how long the cross-country trip would take. Efthemia had money but did not understand enough English to purchase food. Fortunately, a Greek woman traveling to Portland, Oregon, obtained food for them when the train stopped for fuel and water. After three days of travel and wearing the same clothes Gregori met his wife and children on November 11, 1950, at the Seattle train station and took them to the small house he had purchased. That evening Carol attended a name day celebration at the Makos home and had her 12th birthday celebration, her first ever birthday party with cake, candles and gifts, something very strange for her. Three days later Carol was registered at Columbia Elementary School where she was first addressed by her Americanized name, Carol. Although she spoke no English, everyone was very helpful so she just “followed the other kids” and adjusted fairly easily with the help of her brother Tom, who had arrived in Seattle three years earlier. Her father urged her to speak English so the family would not be labeled as “foreigners.” She then attended Sharples Junior High and graduated from Franklin High School in 1957. While in high school she also attended the Modern Beauty School and obtained her state certification.
PETE AND CAROL
In July 1953 Carol and her family went to the Greek community picnic at Angle Lake south of Seattle, where she met Pete Mykris. They met again a month later at the baptism of Pete’s niece. On New Years’ Eve 1953 when Carol came home from beauty school, her mother was ironing a dress for Carol to wear to a New Year’s Eve party. When Pete and his family came to pick Carol and Tom up for the party Pete brought a corsage for Carol. The gift was declined as it would mean they were engaged. Carol was only 15 years old at the time. In November of 1956 Carol met Pete again at a wedding. By that December she had completed enough credits to graduate the following spring. By this time Carol was almost 19 years old. Her papou (grandfather) Lavaris told her “Pete is a good boy,” her uncle Vasili also approved and her parents told her “this is the boy you should marry.” The proxenia (arranged marriage) was underway. On February 12, 1957, she became engaged to Pete. In March she obtained her state beautician’s license and began working at Sunlamp Beauty Shop. In June she graduated from Franklin High School and married Pete on July 21 at St. Demetrios Church. They have had 56 wonderful years of marriage. The couple first lived in Renton and in the Rainier Valley neighborhood of Seattle for a few years. Carol went back to school at Mr. Lee’s Beauty School and passed her Instructor’s State Board exam qualifying her to teach beauticians. It was a rigorous process and Carol was very pleased to have passed. In July of 1958 she became one of three instructors at Mr. Lee’s new beauty school in Renton while Pete began the grocery store business with Sam Zerwoodis. Pete and Carol moved to their home in Seattle’s Seward park neighborhood in 1966 where Pete spent considerable time adding to and remodeling the home. Following a six-year break while raising her children, Carol worked part time at Sophie’s Beauty Shop. She also began working as a part-time beautician at Restorative Care Center where she spent the next 34 years. In September of 1966 she opened her own beauty shop at the Kline Galland retirement home, retiring from there after 46 years in 2012. Pete and Carol have three married daughters: Asimina “Meena” Marie Vellis born October 25, 1960, Thelma (Efthemia) Jean Treperinas on April 5, 1962 and Kristina Ann Dudunakis born August 30, 1964. Pete and Carol have seven grandchildren. From her first days in Seattle, Carol attended St. Demetrios every Sunday with her parents and has been very active in the Greek community. She taught Sunday school and sang in the choir for 43 years. She also joined the Maids of Athena and Daughters of Penelope (the two women’s affiliates of AHEPA [American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association]). She volunteered at the All Saints Camp, a facility owned by Seattle’s Greek Orthodox Churches and with Camp Agape (a Kids ‘n Cancer program) and started Yiayia’s Lunch where grandmothers meet at Greek restaurants once a month. She also helped begin the Alpha Guild of the Philoptochos (women’s church auxiliary). She is particularly pleased that their children and grandchildren are active in the church. For Carol, the Church comes first and her Greek heritage follows.
Pete has used his cooking skills extensively in the Greek community: cooking with Panos Koutlas at the “Ever on Sunday” celebrations in Everett, Washington; at the St. Demetrios Greek festivals; and along with Carol at All Saints Camp and for Camp Agape. Carol’s work has provided extra income for the family so that she and Pete could travel and see as much of the world as possible. Their travels have included three trips across the United States with a travel trailer, a tour of the Orient, a tour of Fiji, New Zealand and Australia, a bus and river cruise in Europe, a tour of South Africa and a river cruise in Russia, one of 14 cruises she and Pete have taken. They have also been able to spend winters in Florida and southern California during the past 15 years. Carol plans each day of activity: cooking and volunteering. After years of hosting holiday celebrations with the large extended family and friends, they are now content celebrating these events with their immediate family. She holds dear the advice from her grandparents and parents to be content with “your own piece of the pie” and to plan ahead for old age and emergencies. Carol recalls her mother’s words, epomoni kai agape (patience and love ) to love everything and everybody and your life will be complete.
1 Carol and Pete Mykris, 2013
2 Pete’s grandparents Nick and Sofia Mykris (pencil drawing) circa 1932
3 Asimina Mykris, early 1900s
4 Nick Mykris family (l-r) Dora, Asimina, Pete, Nick, 1941
5 Asimina and Nick Mykris, 1972
6 Pete at Springhill Market in Renton, 1953
7 Publix Lunch, Seattle, 1929
8 Pete with customer’s grandson at the Publix Lunch, 1972
9 Pete as Citizen of the Year, 2004
10 Carol’s ancestors (l-r) Seated: Athanasios and Eleni Spyridis; standing; Gregorios, Efthemia, Demetroula, 1930s
11 Passport photo (l-r) Louie, Efthemia, Xrisavgi, Kalliroi, 1950
12 Spyridis family (l-r) Gregorios, Athanasios, Tom Lavaris, Betty Lavaris, Efthemea Spyridis, Louie Spyridis, Thomas Lavaris, Vasili Lavaris, Carol Spyridis, circa 1953
13 Papou Lavaris and Gregorios Spyridis, circa 1963
14 Carol, 1955
15 Carol with Ida Gotkin at Kline Galland Home, 1960s
16 Carol and Pete wedding (l-r) Tom, Louie, Carol, Pete, Efthemea, Gregorios, 1957
17 Carol and Pete 35th wedding anniversary, 1992
18 Mykris daughters (l-r) Asimina, Thelma, Chris, 1969
19 Spyridis family (l-r) Tom, Carol, Gergorios, Efthemea, Louie, circa 1972
20 Pete with young friend at Camp Agape, circa 1997
21 Pete Mykris family (l-r) Sam Treperinas, Pete Treperinas, Gus Vallas, Kelli Vallas, Mina Vallas, Andrew Vallas, Pete, Carol, George Treperinas, Thelma Treperinas, Caroline Dudunakis, Paul Dudunakis, Chris Dudunakis, Kenny Dudunakis, Peter Dudunakis, 2010 22 Pete at his bar, 2013 23 Carol’s license plate, 2013
Photos 1, 22, 23 by John Nicon; all others from Mykris family collection SOURCES Video interview by John and Joann Nicon, October 2013; Mykris Reunion Lake Tahoe Nevada 2003; Letter from Nick Mykris to Mrs. Bauman regarding his family history, March 1962