It was the 50s. They called her Faye and she called her Theo Panagioti Nicolaou Papageorgiou “Uncle Pete.”
Many Greek-Americans have grown up with the culture surrounding them in their home. In this case the Greek culture blossomed later in life. During the 1950s while Faye (Fotini) Nicon was in public schools, she really didn’t have a strong stereotypical Greek identity. As Fotini was a strange sounding name at that time, she was usually called Faye instead. Here she is in front of the family home in Seattle.
Her father came to America at the age of 11 and her mother was born in Everett, Washington. Both parents were the youngest of their five siblings and were educated in Seattle. While both parents were fluent in Greek, English was automatically their language at home. Assimilation was extremely important at that time. In 1944 when her family moved to share a household with an older uncle and aunt, Panagioti Nicolaou Papageorgiou and Efthimia Chakos, she called them Uncle Pete and Aunt Effie.
While some Greek was spoken in the home, most of her Greek memories involved activities at the Greek Orthodox Church where most, if not all, parishioners were Greek. While sitting with her mother and aunt as they followed the service by using Greek text, Faye began to figure out the written Greek and how it corresponded to the sounds she heard. She also remembers attending Greek School, Greek baptisms, weddings, Greek festivals and picnics, and visiting relatives who lived a more formal and traditional Greek life. The smells of Greek cooking and the language in those homes are most memorable. In this photo she is at the right rear with her brother and cousins. It was not until she entered college that her Greek roots really took hold. As a French major she developed a love of languages and it was inevitable that she would learn to speak and write in Greek.
Faye married Theodore Stylianopoulos (born in Greece) who was subsequently ordained a priest in the Greek Orthodox Church and has become a respected author and professor at the Holy Cross Seminary in Brookline, Massachusetts. As a Presvetera (priest’s wife) her knowledge of Greek was developed even further and Faye took it upon herself to master the language in her later life. After traveling to Greece, securing all the books she could find, and conversing with Greek parishioners she became proficient and even began speaking to her children in Greek from birth.
Now, in her 70s, having traveled to Greece several times, being comfortable with the language and even subscribing to the Greek television channel, she deeply appreciates the culture much more than she could have in 1950.By John Nicon, April 2011
1 Faye today
2 Faye in front of the family home with brother John in Background
3 Faye with brother John, cousin Marihelen Cazone, and cousins Nick and Paulette Diafos
4 Faye and Father Ted in Greece
Photo 1 by John Nicon; All other photos from Stylianopoulos Family Collection SOURCES
Video interview by John Nicon, April 2011