Greek-American Historical Museum of Washington State

An Island Experience in Tacoma
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An Island Experience in Tacoma

John John and Voula Dodd

1 John and Voula wih Tacoma books, 2013For sister and brother, Voula Dodd and John John, life in Tacoma included much of the culture and traditions of living on the island of Marmara. In their teenage years, with exposure to American culture, their lives expanded and grew while maintaining the fond memories of their childhood.

Their father, Antonios 2 Antonio on the railroad, fourth from right, circa 1910Ioannou, was born in 1889 in Palatia, one of five villages on the island of Marmara off the coast of Turkey. In 1909 he left Palatia for Le Havre, France, where he boarded the ship Chicago and arrived in New York on June 1. He worked his way west by laying track for the railroad and working in Oregon and Washington logging camps, eventually settling in Tacoma joining other young men from Marmara, including his older brother Michael, who were working in the sawmills. That was to be his lifelong work on Tacoma’s waterfront ultimately with the Lyle Lumber Company operating a “resaw” machine which turned raw timber into usable lumber. A number of these young men had left Marmara rather than be forced into the military 3 Antionio circa 1913    4 ClassicTacoma wedding, 1920s during the rule of the Ottoman Empire. In 1923 all Greek Orthodox Christians were forced to leave Turkey as part of the population exchange agreed to by the Greek and Turkish governments. A majority of those from Palatia were temporarily relocated to Halkida (Chalkida) on the Island of Evia (Euboea) until they were resettled permanently in Nea Palatia adjacent to Skala Oropo. Many 5 Evangelia in home village, 1930ssuffered and died from diphtheria and other diseases resulting from poor health conditions. With four sisters still in Greece, Antonios sent most of his money to his sisters for their dowries. He planned to return to Greece to marry but the bank panic in 1929 caused him to lose all his savings. Later, Gus Morf, the “donut king” of San Francisco, also from Palatia, stopped in Tacoma on his honeymoon trip after visiting and marrying a young woman from Nea Palatia. 6 Stratu family (l-r) Maria, Paskalia, Despina, Yianni, Evangelia, Doxi, 1938There he told the Tacoma bachelors that there were many eligible girls in Nea Palatia. Almost 50 years old, Antonios decided again to return to Greece to seek a bride.

When Antonios was preparing to leave for Greece, he encountered Afendula and Diamandis Mandy, also from Marmara/Nea Palatia. When they discovered Antonios’ intent to marry someone from Nea Palatia, they agreed to be godparents of the first born. Afendula, Voula’s nouna (godmother), and the bride Evangelia had been childhood friends and now would become koumbari (sponsors).

Evangelia Stratou was one of four children. Her father had been to the United States several times for work beginning in the late 1800s but was never able to persuade his wife to immigrate to America. Evangelia was eight years old when the family left Marmara. The Stratous stayed in Halkida for a while with family friends and Evangelia’s father worked at a cement factory. Later the family moved to Nea Palatia where they had a home with land for animals and crops. Evangelia graduated from grammar school and wanted more education in Athens. However, her father had died suddenly and her mother needed her help to support the family. Thus, Evangelia remained in Nea Palatia where she taught preschool.

7 Antonios and Evangelia in Pireaus, 1939     8 Antonios and Evangelia wedding, 1939     9 Evangelia and Antonios, 1940

At the age of 18 or 19, Evangelia wanted to become a nun but her mother denied permission, causing a deep depression for Evangelia. In 1939 when she was 26, Antonios came to Greece to visit his two sisters who lived in Nea Palatia. He was sitting at a kafenion (coffee shop) when he saw Evangelia walking down the street. When he asked about her, his sisters, who 10 Dinner with bachelors, 1950sknew and liked Evangelia, encouraged Antonios, even to the extent of lying to him about her age. They were concerned that Antonios might think she was too young. He was 49 at the time and looked younger while Evangelia, with long dark hair wound up around her head, looked older than her age. She told Antonios “Even though I’m young I’m very mature.” After some discussion, they became engaged and went to Athens to meet other relatives. Following their wedding in Nea Palatia on September 3, 1939, Antonios was unable to obtain a visa for Evangelia because of the outbreak of World War II and had to return to the States without her. With the help of Congressman John Coffee, she left Greece on the last boat just before the outbreak of the War. Cautious and speaking no English, she missed her rail connection in Chicago, Illinois, but chanced to meet a Greek station employee. The employee took Evangelia home to stay overnight with his family and escorted her to the station the next morning where she boarded the train to Tacoma.

In Tacoma the core of people from Marmara were of considerable assistance and provided an extended family for Evangelia. Many of Antonio’s bachelor friends spent time at the John home and became theos (uncles) to Voula and John. Laz Politakis, (See “THAT SOUNDS LIKE GREEK TO ME” under Making a Living) son of exathelfos (cousin) Steve Politakis, had attended Pacific Lutheran University (PLU), worked in a local bank performing repossessions and owned a classy car. For John, Laz was a role model and John eventually was godfather to Laz’s son, Chris. Eftaxia Pangis almost adopted Evangelia and was more like a grandmother to her children. When Eftaxia died, she left a tablecloth for Voula with Voula’s name on it. The Protopsaltis family (see “MY DEAR YOU HAVE THE KNOWLEDGE” under Keeping Community) operated a general store in Nea Palatia and, when their daughter Elly moved to Tacoma after World War II, she later became John’s nouna (godmother).

11 John family (l-r) Voula, Antonios, John, Evangelia, circa 1948 - Copy 12 Voula and John, mid 1950s 13 John family (l-r) John, Antonios, Evangelia, Voula and dog 1956 - Copy

The John family paid $18 per month to rent a home in old Tacoma. In 1957, the family purchased a home in north Tacoma near the University of Puget Sound (UPS). Antonios spent his working years in the lumber mill and retired from the Lyle Lumber Company in 1956. He passed away in 1963 and Evangelia was widowed until her passing in 1991.1

Thea (aunt) Pashalia was much like a second mother to Voula and John and was eight years younger than her sister Evangelia. After their mother died in 1941, Pashalia lived with her older sister’s family working as a seamstress. At the time many “picture brides” from Greece traveled to the Bahamas, where Greek bachelors from the United States would go to meet their brides in person and get married in the local Greek 2Orthodox Church. In 1948 Pashalia was in the Bahamas after exchange of letters and pictures with Costa, a good man and a barber from Tacoma, and it was love at their first in-person meeting. Unfortunately, before they even obtained a marriage license, Costa suffered a stroke and died. At this point Evangelia began searching for other possible mates for her stranded sister and found Foti (Frank) Kost in Seattle and a new match was made. Voula a3nd John were left with a childless and somewhat tyrannical relative while Evangelia and Frank drove across the country and flew to the Bahamas for the wedding. The married couple drove back while Evangelia returned by herself to an ever-grateful son John. For Pashalia, it was a good match until Frank died in 1966. Pashalia and Frank did not bear children and Pashalia showed her motherly love to Voula and John.


14 Voula at six months, 194115 Voula, circa 1951Stavroula “Voula” Stephania (Stephanie) Dodd (nee John) was born on June 18, 1941, at St Joseph hospital in Tacoma. Her brother, Ioannis (John) Antonios “Tony” Ioannou (John) followed on February 24, 1945. Although the family was poor, Voula never felt deprived in any way with the love of family and friends. The family friends were those at their St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. Voula knew all the kitchens of her mother’s friends including the Turlis and Evans homes where the women would spend time sewing, crocheting and sharing stories. There was always some giggling and laughter which may have been during the telling of a few off-color stories. Voula did not attend kindergarten because it was optional and she spoke no English. School in the first grade at Lowell Elementary was traumatic. She was picked on at times but with the help of a wonderful teacher in the fourth grade things improved. Reading, however, was still a challenge.

16 Voula as junior bridesmaid,mid 1950sSchooling continued at Mason Junior High and Stadium High Schools. When Voula attended a classmate’s event at the Tacoma Tennis Club, she realized there was a whole other world out there. In the sixth grade she was finally able to join the Girl Scouts. With the help of Mrs. Anderson who tutored Voula in math and spelling, Voula grew to love her school experience. When a new high school opened in north Tacoma, Voula found more opportunities for leadership roles that she enthusiastically embraced. By that time her good grades put her in the honor society and she was an officer of the Girls Club. As the first-born child of immigrants, it was up to Voula to interpret for her parents and to be the first in the family to get a driver’s license. Dating was something new that provided challenges to even attending dances like her other young Tacoma friends.

Voula had met Maria Raptis, a 17 Voula in high school, 1959friend to this day, at an AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association) convention in Tacoma. Maria lived in Everett, Washington, and when Voula received a YWCA scholarship, she had a “little chat” with her father to obtain permission to attend Everett Junior College and live with the Raptis family there. In college, Voula worked in the Athletic Director’s office and was a student representative. After her junior college experience she returned to Tacoma and took a job with the Omar Bratrud Insurance Agency. In 1962 Voula felt the need for a change and used her savings to take a three-month college tour of Europe. Having never been east of Spokane, Washington, this was a big adventure. In New York Voula met up with other young women on the tour, traveled to Montreal, Quebec, and sailed to Europe. She extended her time in Europe to visit her relatives in Greece and Istanbul.

18 Voula's first job, 1960   19 Regan Charuchas, Voula, Olga Manos, Ted Manos, 1964   20 Voula and Mike Dodd wedding, 1972

Again back in Tacoma tragedy struck with a serious car accident which kept Voula in a coma for a short time and out of work for the next eighteen months. Recovered, in 1967, she took another trip to Greece and Turkey. When she returned this time with a thirst for travel, she joined United Airlines where she worked for the next 36 years. She had wanted to be a flight attendant but, because of the scars from her accident, was disqualified. So, she began working in United’s employment office as secretary to the person hiring flight attendants and over the years held several different positions with United until she retired in 2001. While living near the Seattle-Tacoma airport, she met Mike Dodd who lived next door. They married in 1972 and had a son Christopher in 1976. After 35 years of a wonderful marriage, Mike unexpectedly died in April of 2008. Christopher and his wife Maria Christofilis have blessed Voula with a granddaughter, Evangelia.


22 John with nouno Ilia Pangis, 194721 John, 1948For “Little Johnny John” life as a child was easier because of Voula’s experiences. Evangelia told her son he was special and he believed it without knowing that all mothers say the same thing to their children. He attended the same schools in Tacoma, Lowell, Mason and Stadium, and there was no question that he would continue on to college. Evangelia had become more comfortable in her American environment and spoke some English. She endeared herself to other parents and teachers by attending PTA (Parent Teacher Association) meetings with koulourakia (Greek cookies). At school John was known as a Greek among other children of different ethnic backgrounds. On his paper route, his parents protectively helped with the Sunday morning deliveries. In the video segment, Becoming John John, he recalls the time in the sixth grade when his teacher asked for his birth certificate and John for the first time realized the legal name was John T. John. It was an awakening. Since then there have been many jokes and humorous incidents about his name but overall it has been a positive.

23 John, circa 1952     24 John in high school, 1963     25 John in the Marine Corps, 1971

On one occasion John was invited to a birthday party where the father of the celebrant was an Army Colonel and assistant to General Eisenhower. The man had been to Greece and quickly related to John. This was a memorable experience that contributed to John’s identity of being Greek. While John’s “Greekness” was always there, moving to a different neighborhood brought about an increased involvement in American activities: playing sports, close neighborhood friends, participating in student politics and watching television. It was like living in two different worlds: cutting the vasilopita (St. Basil’s bread) on New Year’s day or attending apokries (celebrations before Lent) while attending movies and dressing in costumes for Halloween. At Stadium High School in 1962 John performed basic Greek dances in Greek costume with classmates he tutored. It was an event long remembered, especially by one teacher at John’s 50th high school reunion. He played sports and entered into school politics becoming student body president at Stadium where he graduated in 1963. Shortly after John began his studies at the University of Washington in Seattle, his father died in 1963 and his aunt Pashalia was widowed in 1966. In 1967 Voula had her accident and Evangelia moved to Seattle shortly thereafter to live with Pashalia.

At the University, John associated with a number of older students, several of whom had gone on to law school. He studied political science and was involved in student government, serving on the Board of Control, and was runner-up in the 1966 election for student body president. He graduated in 1967 and began law school at the University. With the Vietnam War in effect, he began a 10-week summer program with the United States Marine Corps and had his first taste of humid weather in Washington, D.C. When he finished law school in 1970, he was commissioned with the rank of captain. Subsequently, he attended the Naval Justice School in Rhode Island and by exchanging orders with another officer found himself with duty in Iwakuni, Japan, with the First Marine Airwing and then at the MCRD (Marine Corps Recruit Depot) in San Diego, California.

4After completing his military service, John joined the law firm of Graham and Dunn in Seattle where he began a 40-year career. This experience has exposed him to a wide range of business and industry but the most satisfying part of his career has been the trust and confidence placed in him by his personal clients. John served as managing partner at Graham and Dunn for 14 years. Meanwhile, he provided a number of pro bono services to the Greek and Orthodox Church communities28 John at Graham and Dunn, circa 2013 including the All Saints Camp program and the Philanthropia adult family home. In 1998 he was instrumental in organizing the Hellenes of the Northwest which supports the Hellenic Studies Program in the University of Washington Jackson School of International Studies. At a church picnic at Surprise Lake in 1979, John met Emilie Ballasiotes (See THE BROTHERS THREE under Making a Living). They were married on October 5, 1980, and have three children, Anthony, Angelea and George. John has recently become a citizen of Greece has have all of his children.


For Voula, it was a struggle at times trying to “fit in” and be like her American friends while her parents were grounded in the Greek Community. However, the extended-family environment made her a stronger person and has helped her deal with adversity in her life. She loves her culture and is blessed to have a rich ethnic and religious background. While she might have finished college, she has no regrets as her travel and exposure to other parts of the world have compensated significantly. For John, he knows that, while he grew up in relative poverty, the unconditional love and positive approach he received from his family allowed him to appreciate whatever he had. Being Greek has always been a distinguishing and positive factor in his life and in many ways defined him.

29 Christopher, Maria, Voula, 2012      30 John family (l-r) Anthony, John, Emilie, Leah, George, 2008

While some of his Greek friends may have rejected the culture, partly due to an ethnocentric life style, many have embraced the Greek traditions in their later years. John believes assimilation by Greeks in America is a two-generation process, and we are there now with the children and grandchildren of the pre-1960 Greek immigrants. In John’s words, “All we can do is pass on to our children the importance of our Greek culture and traditions and create opportunities.” He believes the Greek Orthodox Church should emphasize the faith and provide spiritual guidance but no longer preserve the culture and that academic settings are more appropriate for creating opportunities for those who have a new or rekindled interest in the Greek and Hellenic traditions. All John’s children participated in Greek dance, have been church camp counselors and traveled to Greece.
For Voula and her non-Greek husband, Mike, one of the happiest times of their lives was when they along with seven other families helped establish an English-speaking Orthodox Church, Holy Apostles in Seattle. Her son Christopher attended Greek school and enjoyed Greek folk dancing.
Voula likes to say eine oti eine (it is what it is) or etsi ketsi (so, so). John remembers his mother’s positive attitude and me xerotera (it could have been worse).

By John and Joann Nicon, February 2014
1 John and Voula with Tacoma books, 2013
2 Antonios on the railroad, fourth from right, circa 1910
3 Antonios, circa 1913
4 Classic Tacoma wedding, 1920s
5 Evangelia in home village, 1930s
6 Stratou family, (l-r) Maria, Pashalia, Despina, Yiannis, Evangelia, Doxi, 1938
7 Antonios and Evangelia in Pireaus, 1939
8 Antonios and Evangelia wedding, 1939
9 Evangelia and Antonios, 1940s
10 Dinner with bachelors at the John home, 1950s
11 John family (l-r) Voula, Antonios, John, Evangelia, 1948
12 Voula and John, mid 1950s
13 John Family (l-r) John, Antonios, Evangelia, Voula, 1956
14 Pashalia, Voula, John, Evangelia at Mt. Rainier, 1967
15 Evangelia, Christopher, Voula, Pashalia, 1977
16 Evangelia and Pashalia, 1980s
17 Voula at six months, 1941
18 Voula, circa 1951
19 Voula as a junior bridesmaid, 1950s
20 Voula in high school, 1959
21 Voula’s first job, 1960
22 Regan Charuchas, Voula, Olga Manos, Ted Manos, 1964
23 Voula and Mike Dodd wedding, 1972
24 John with nouno (godfather) Ilia Pangis, 1947
25 John, 1948
26 John, circa 1952
27 John in high school, 1963
28 John in the Marine Corps, 1971
29 John and Emilie wedding, 1980
30 John at Graham and Dunn, circa 2013
31 Christopher, Maria, Voula, 2012
32 John family (l-r) Anthony, John, Emilie, Leah, George, 2008
Photo 1 by John Nicon; 28 from Graham and Dunn web site; all others from John family collection
Video interview by John and Joann Nicon, September 2013