When Kenny Dudunakis was growing up in Pocatello, Idaho, being Greek was a badge of honor. He moved to Washington State in 1989 where he has developed his career in commercial real estate.
Kenny’s Greek given name, Kanaki, was in honor of his maternal papou (grandfather) and pro papou (great grandfather) who bore the same name. His surname was shortened to Dudunake when his paternal grandfather came to the United States. The origin of the name is not known but may have been derived from one of the villages on the island of Crete. The ending of the name, “akis,” means little which Kenny believes was most likely given to the family by the Turks.
THE DUDUNAKIS FAMILY
Kenny’s paternal papou, Michael, came to the United States in 1908 from Malaxa south east of Hania on the Greek island of Crete. He spoke no English and worked on the Union Pacific Railroad settling in Pocatello, Idaho. He left the railroad and opened a restaurant (the Emerald Tap Room) and fruit stand. He also made liquor in the basement. Kenny’s yiayia (grandmother), Maria, was from Afrata, also on the island of Crete. Maria had been in Boston, Massachusetts, then moved to Pocatello. In Pocatello, she ran a boarding house for Cretans working on the railroad, housing and feeding up to ten boarders at a time. That is where she and Michael met. In 1914 they were the first Greek couple to be married in Pocatello. Michael retired in his early 50s, dabbled in real estate and could be found occasionally at the family restaurant and bar, the Emerald Tap Room.
Kenny’s father, Paul Dudunake, was one of seven children: Harry also operated the family café and bar. He married Ann, a Cretan from Salt Lake City, Utah, and they later had a beauty supply store; John managed the farm outside of Pocatello; Paul; Matt moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, and became a liquor distributor; Helen married and moved to Boise, Idaho; Chris moved to California and eventually settled in Spokane, Washington; Katherine lived her life in Pocatello. At one time or another all the children worked in the restaurant.
Paul was born in 1924. He played football at Pocatello High School and then for one year at Idaho State University. He was a hard-living, rough and tumble guy on the surface but one gentle soul that lived for his family. In World War II he earned three bronze medals, each from a different battle. After a couple of years in college, he went to work in the restaurant. The family operated the business until it closed after which Paul opened Dude’s Bar. When the business sold, he began a real estate business. Paul and his brothers also purchased and built several apartment buildings in Pocatello which Kenny and his cousins still own and operate. Paul passed away suddenly in March of 1993.
When Kenny’s uncle John served in World War II, he parachuted into the Balkan islands, was shot through the neck and was reported dead in a Life magazine article. Later he was found recovering in a hospital. He then led a full life, including raising nine children. On his 95th birthday John was honored at a Seattle Mariners baseball game and died six months later. Here is the video of that event.
THE FRANGADAKIS FAMILY
Kenny’s maternal papou, Kanaki Frangadakis and his family lived in Price, Utah, where he, like many Greeks, worked in the coal mines. His yiayia, Katarina, and Kanaki had five children: George, Manos, Helen, Mary and Kenny’s mother, Beth. Beth’s real name was Sylvia but she was nicknamed Beth, after Manos’ girlfriend.
In the 1930s life was rugged in the wild west of Price, Utah, and when a Frangadakis cousin Michael was in a “scuffle” he fired a pistol over the other man’s head. The man responded, “A real man would shoot me in the forehead,” and Michael did. Michael quickly became a fugitive and headed west to San Francisco, California, where he was captured and imprisoned. In the early 1940s Kanaki and his family moved from Price to San Francisco to wait for Michael to serve his time.
Eventually, papou Frangadakis opened grocery stores, restaurants and bars, (up to 20 at one time) which were operated with the help of his sons George and Manos. On one occasion Manos physically removed the mayor from one of the establishments and the family was strongly urged to leave the area. The family took the opportunity to move to the San Jose and Sunnyvale areas south of San Francisco. When Kenny once asked his thea (aunt) why they moved, she replied “because of the weather.” Apparently, things were getting “hot” in San Francisco. George and Manos then opened The Brass Rail, a country western bar in Sunnyvale. In order to improve business, some go-go dancers were hired and The Brass Rail became a gentlemen’s club. The brothers operated the club until their respective deaths, George at 94 and Manos at 95. At those ages they still went to work every day. Kenny’s cousins still own and operate the bar today. However, strip clubs are becoming more organized with stricter regulations so the cousins are planning to sell the property for development. The Brass Rail is located one block from the Google Campus and has turned out to be a wonderful family investment.
As a young woman Beth Frangadakis worked at Woolworth’s (a retail store and one of the original five-and-dime stores) in San Francisco and met Paul Dudunakis at a Greek convention there. She was a very “Americanized” city girl who loved her family. Thus, after she married Paul in 1942, moving to Pocatello and adapting to country life with harsh winters was a challenge. With Paul working most of the time, Beth’s time was spent raising their children. Their oldest child is Michael, now living in Las Vegas, Nevada. The two Dudunakis daughters, Paula and Karen, live in Portland, Oregon, and Kenny, the youngest, is now in Seattle.
A video recording was made to document the Frangadakis family reunion in 2005. It can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P06Rgn7G9_w&feature=youtu.be
Life in Pocatello for Kenny was very active within a small but lively group of Greeks, mostly from Crete. The Greek Orthodox of the Assumption, established in 1915, has grown from about 40 families when Kenny lived there to almost 200 presently. At home there was some Greek spoken when his parents argued or yelled at him and his siblings, but it was mostly English. His parents kept their children connected to their relatives through regular visits to San Francisco. Like his father, Kenny was active in sports, riding bicycles with friends, playing football and, baseball, and especially skiing. His best friends were his cousins and a few other children from the Adamakis, Katsilometes and Kalivas families. For him, it was a “badge of honor” to be Greek, and he was not treated any differently from his non-Greek friends.
After high school he embarked on a ten-year college program and was motivated to do other activities rather than study while pursuing his dream of becoming a world-class skier. His mentor and cousin, Dino, competed in Europe and was considered the best mogul skier in the world. Kenny promoted Warren Miller Ski Films in Idaho and Wyoming and also appeared in one or two films. He attended Idaho State University in Pocatello with stints in Cupertino and Lake Tahoe, California. During one summer he worked at his uncle’s club in Sunnyvale. A great deal of cash was kept on the premises as employees from the nearby Lockheed/Martin aircraft company would cash their checks at The Brass Rail. Thus, it was a target for robberies and Kenny was told by his uncle Manos never to give any robbers the money. Despite his tumultuous Frangadakis lineage, he would have declined the demand but never had to face that event. He loved that job.
As a ski promoter, Kenny was able to live anywhere and in 1989 he moved to be near a cousin in Olympia, Washington, while commuting to his work location in Redmond, Washington. He was working for Ski Industries America, based in Washington D.C., as its western representative, promoting the sport through “learn to ski programs” and “pre-ski days.” He also helped form the Washington State Ski Industry Association. The ski areas of Crystal Mountain, Alpental and Snoqualmie Summit resorts were association members and it was a glamorous although not a lucrative job.
Kenny attended Seattle’s St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church where he met the Pallis family and became close friends and skiing buddies with Chris Pallis (see LIFE ACCORDING TO GEORGE). It was in 1992 that Chris introduced him to Kris Mykris (see THEIR PIECE OF THE PIE). She worked as an attorney for the United States Customs Department. As their relationship developed and Kenny was struggling in a new business, he was even more taken when she even bought groceries for him. They were married on October 16, 1993. Their first child, Paul, was born in 1997 and was followed by Peter in 1999 and Caroline in 2000.
In 1991 while visiting relatives in California, Kenny happened to go pheasant hunting with his cousin and was introduced to George Marcus who suggested Kenny think about entering the real estate field. In 1991 he began working for Marcus & Millichap, initially researching tax records, contacting apartment owners and setting appointments in hopes they would choose him when they decided to sell. He continued as a broker and also bought some small buildings. In 2000 he left Marcus & Millichap and began selling institutional properties and buying smaller buildings until his business was purchased by Berkshire Hathaway. Presently, he serves as Senior Managing Director for BERKADIA, a joint venture of Berkshire Hathaway and Leucadia National Corporation in the commercial real estate field. With over 25 years in the industry, Kenny plans to continue working at least until his youngest child is finished with her schooling.
Kenny has always appreciated older, vintage automobiles. He envied a friend who had a 1968 Willys Jeepster and was finally able to purchase one for himself. He also admired a Mercedes 280 SL which Dustin Hoffman drove in the movie “The Graduate”, and was able to secure one for Kris as a 40th birthday gift.
Kenny considers himself third-generation and Kris second-generation, more removed from Greece than some of their Greek-American contemporaries. They do their best to pass the culture on to their children who have attended Greek school, participated in Greek folk dancing, served as church acolytes and attended the Ionian Village camp in Greece. Kenny himself was the beneficiary of an AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association) scholarship and has traveled to Greece three times with his family. In March of 2016 he and Kris organized a skiing event in Sun Valley, Idaho, for AHEPA.
For Kenny, his Greek heritage and Orthodox Christian faith are inseparable, although his activities through the church have been mostly social. He recognizes that his generation of Greek-Americans has had few if any disadvantages compared with their ancestors. With a wry smile, he contends that Greeks from Crete see themselves far superior to those from mainland Greece. He values the lessons he has learned from both Frangadakis and Dudunakis ancestors.By John and Joann Nicon (date when posted)
1 Kenny Dudunakis, 2016
2 Papou Dudunakis at the Emerald Tap Room, 1950s
3 Paul, uncle Harry and papou at Dudes Bar, 1950s
4 Paul Dudunakis at the bar, early 1950s
5 Paul Dudunakis family (l-r) standing: George, Paul, Mike, Karen, Kenny; seated: Jason Diamond, Paul, Michelle Diamond, Beth, Nick, mid 1980s
6 Papou Kanaki and yiayia Katarina, early 1950s
7 Beth wedding photo, 1942
8 Paul and Beth Dudunakis, 1940s
9 Kenny’s baptismal photo, 1957
10 Kenny, 1962
11 Kenny, 1964
12 Kenny, 1975
13 Kenny’s baseball award, 1966
14 Kenny and Kris wedding, 1993
15 With Mykris parents, (l-r) Kenny, Kris, Carol, Pete, Sam Treperinas, Thelma Treperinas, George Treperinas, early 2000
16 Kenny Dudunakis family, (l-r) Paul, Kris, Peter, Kenny, Caroline, circa 2005
17 In the Jeepster, early 2000s
18 Skiing (l-r) Kenny, Caroline, Kris, Peter, Paul, Christmas 2010
19 Kenny’s 50th birthday poster, 2007
20 Kris and Kenny with their parent’s photos, 2016
Photos 1 and 20 by John Nicon; all others from Dudunakis family collection SOURCES
Video interview by John and Joann Nicon, February 2016