Greek-American Historical Museum of Washington State

Come Fly With Me
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Come Fly With Me

Diana Aristides Bacas

1 Diana with family photos, 2012Born in Washington State, Diana Aristides Bacas (nee Delimitros) has the best of three worlds and is equally at home in Madrid, Athens or Seattle.  She also believes that she is truly blessed to have lived in this particular timeframe of history, to have been born in Seattle, wanted and loved by her family and to have experienced an extraordinary and unique timeframe of aviation history.

Diana’s mother, Artemis Ioannou, was born in Athens, Greece, on February 14, 1912.  Artemis’ parents were Costa Ioannou and Panagiota Panagiotou. They met when Costa came to install electricity in the village of Levendia, near Thebes in Greece where Panagiota’s father had a general store.  Costa had been trained as an electrical engine2 Aristides, circa 1928er in Heidelberg, Germany, and came from an aristocratic family that did not approve of the marriage to a villager.  They married regardless and Costa built a house in the shadow of the Acropolis inDescription: C:GREEK COLLECTIONONLINE EXHIBITS IN PROGRESSBACAS, DIANA DELEMITROS2 Aristidis, circa 1928.jpg Athens where Artemis grew up with her siblings Demetrios and Constantina.  Until Costa died when Artemis was five years old, the family lived very comfortably and was able to help the less fortunate who needed food and assistance.  After his death Panagiota decided to send her children to be with relatives in America.  Thus, at 14 years of age, Artemis went to live in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, with Evangelia, her mother’s sister, who had earlier emigrated to Canada and married Ted Geatros.  There she worked in the family restaurant and learned much of her English from the owners of a Chinese laundry across the street.

Aristides Delimitros was the 12th of 14 children born in Parapounia (today Lefktra), near Thebes in central Greece.  Once in the United States he worked his way across the country on the railroad and ended up in Alaska.  He became a foreman supervising a number of well-educated refugees from Constantinople.  At night they would share their knowledge in the arts and sciences with him.  He built a cabin on a plot of land given to him by the railroad company.  While opening the door at a friend’s cabin and facing a large grizzly bear, he decided Alaska was not for him.  It was then that he moved to Seattle and opened the Quality Food Market on Eighth Avenue and Pike Street.

In 1929 Aristides, now a successful businessman, considered returning to Greece to find a bride. He 3 Artemis and Aristides, circa 19484 Diana and Nouno Tom Masouras, circa 1934was to be the best man at John and Nota Lucas’ wedding in Vancouver, British Columbia.  In Vancouver he also knew Artemis’ uncle, Tom Michas, who learned of Aristides’ desire and told him he had a niece in Weyburn, Saskatchewan.  Tom arranged for Artemis and her aunt Evangelia and uncle Ted to come to Vancouver to meet an eligible bachelor from Seattle.  With Aristides as best man and Artemis as a bridesmaid, the match was made.  Aristides and Artemis married in 1930.

Their daughter Diana was born in Seattle on September 6, 1931.  Her brother Aristides “Artie” Constantinos followed on April 9, 1934.  The family lived comfortably even during difficult economic times and Diana was almost 20 years old before she realized “everyone was not as fortunate as me.”

The Quality Food Market was open 24 hours a day as one of the first “supermarkets” in Seattle.  Diana remembers two stout ladies behind the counter where deli items such as coleslaw, potato salad, beets, olives and pickles were displayed.  Diana and Artie learned about Polish sausages from the Polish butcher.  One of the Tolias boys (another long-time Seattle family) ran the parking lot adjacent to the market.  Diana remembers rising early with her father on Saturdays when he would go to the wholesale produce market on Western Avenue to purchase produce for the market.  It was such a special treat for her to have breakfast with her father sitting on a stool next to him at a coffee shop counter and having a bear claw pastry.  After that she would go back to where the car was parked and while waiting for her father to complete his purchases, she would practice her violin in the back seat preparing for her Saturday morning violin lesson.  Aristides also operated a cheese stand with his brother Herman at the Pike Place Public Market and had one of the first soft ice cream machines which was all the rage at the time.

6 Family circa 1938   5 Four generations, 1935   7 Sisters and families, circa 1940

When the Quality Food Market sold in the 1940s, Aristides opened the Coney Island Restaurant on Ninth and Olive Way.  Later he had the El Coco Tavern and restaurant on First Avenue and worked with Merlino Foods in the export food business.  There was plenty of food and when people came to the Delimitros home asking for assistance, Artemis would always help them, remembering her childhood days in Athens.  When the family would pass Hooverville (a Depression-era shanty town in south Seattle), Artemis would remind her children how lucky they were.  A 1935 Seattle Post-Intelligencer article tells the story of four generations of the family, including grandmother Panagiota and great grandmother Efstathia, both of whom Aristides brought from Greece to live at home with his wife and family.  Despite a strong Greek home environment, Artemis ventured beyond her family and involved Diana along with other young Greek women in activities including camping, Brownies, Girl Scouts and, of course, music.Description: C:GREEK COLLECTIONONLINE EXHIBITS IN PROGRESSBACAS, DIANA DELEMITROS7 Diana, Artie, Aistidis and Artemis, 1942.jpg

8 Diana, Artie, Aistides and Artemis, 1942Music prevailed in the Delimitros home.  Diana began playing the violin at the age of five.  She played in the Seattle Children’s Orchestra and the Seattle Youth Symphony.  After she married and moved to Colorado, she played in the Colorado Springs, Denver and Pueblo Symphony Orchestras.  In California she played in the La Jolla Symphony Orchestra.  She credits her mother’s singing and photographic memory (Artemis would have a song for every occasion) for her musical talent and skill.  On Sundays, after dinner there would be music for singing and dancing.  Diana has vivid memories of Nicholas Oeconomacos, principal clarinetist of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra in  1920 in their home with his beautiful clarino (clarinet) music  (see THE SOFTEST CLARINET IN THE WORLD under Making a Living.)  She recalls listening on the radio to the New York Philharmonic Orchestra with Dimitri Metropolis 9 Diana violin circa 1941 10 Artie accordian circa 1941 11 Diana and Artie, circa 1950 12 Diana and Artie circa 1980conducting.  She remembers singing in the car where she and her brother were “held captive.”  Artie played the accordion and a brother-and-sister act was born.  Artemis was their booking agent and they played at cocktail parties, country clubs, banquets and even in the Governor’s mansion.

13 Maids of Athens c. 1950Diana attended Lafayette Elementary School, Madison Junior High and West Seattle High School.  During that time she was active in the Maids of Athena, the junior women’s auxiliary of AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association).  With her good friend Katina Melonas she helped organize kafenia (coffee houses) events in the basement of St. Demetrios Church.  When AHEPA chose not to hold their annual Greek picnic, the Maids successfully organized the event at Cottage Lake north of Seattle with transportation, food, music, dancing and a raffle.

In 1951 Diana attended the Cornish School (now Cornish College of the Arts).  She worked for a broad range of small businesses: insurance, real estate, sash and door hardware, food broker and doctor but found she was not suited to working in small offices.  She took a job with the Boeing Airplane Company in its manufacturing department.  Here she found a place full of opportunities with many interesting people and she began what became a 43–year career in aviation.

14 Artie, Aristides, Artemis and Diana, 195215 Evan and Diana Wedding, 1952Evan Bacas was an exchange student from Greece who lived and worked with his relatives in San Francisco, California, but in 1947, when this arrangement was no longer possible, Evan came to live with the Delimitros family in Seattle.  For Diana it was like having another brother in the home.  However, as Evan learned English, attended college, played football there and grew into a handsome young man things changed.  After a time at St. Martin’s College away from Seattle to improve his grades, Evan appeared outside Diana’s office one afternoon, drove her home and said “I decided we should get married.”  Diana said “How do you know I want to marry you?” and said she needed time to think it over.  She took one day to decide and they were married on February 12, 1952.

16 Working in AthensDiana was at the Boeing Company when the first 707 prototype was being built.  She was at the home of Andy and Ida Lucas, their koumbari  (best man or maid/matron of honor), overlooking Lake Washington watching the hydroplane races the summer of 1951 when the Boeing 707 prototype flew over the lake on a test flight and did a complete loop to the amazement of thousands of spectators.  When Evan graduated from the University of Washington in 1953, he joined the U.S. Army in order to obtain his American citizenship.  The Army took them to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where Diana initiated her government service work.  She was working for F86 jet pilots and found the work particularly exciting.  When Evan finished his military obligation, they moved again, this time to Greece where Evan was teaching and Diana worked for the United States Department of Defense at the Metahiko Tamion for the Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group, Greece, assisting with equipment and training for the Greek military forces.  During the hot summer months Evan and Diana would work from 7am to 3pm then head for the beach with friends to water ski and keep cool.

Evan decided to pursue his interest in romance languages and the couple moved again, this time to Madrid, Spain, where Evan earned his master’s degree and worked on his Ph.D. at the Compultense University of Madrid.  Six blocks away from their apartment was the Air Defense Ministry (Spain’s Department of Defense) where Diana secured employment.  A few years later with no opportunities for promotion she transferred to Torrejon Air Force Base and worked for the 16th Air Force Headquarters in their Command Section.  There she worked for Major Generals and Lieutenant Generals (all of them 17Diana's boss, General Nelson (under arrow), 1985F-16 pilots) who were responsible for operations in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Northern Africa.  Dealing with these areas on a daily basis wastruly inspiring and rewarding.  Diana retired in 1996 having spent 43 years experiencing every step of the evolution of commercial and military aviation.

In Madrid Diana has continued her Greek connections.  Until 1975 a small group of Greeks met for church services in a private home, but were eventually permitted by a Spanish decree to build their own church, Agios Andreas kai Demetrios (St. Andrew and St. James).  In 35 years it has evolved to a pan-Orthodox church with a Greek bishop, Greek, Rumanian and Bulgarian priests, Greek and Russian psaltes (chanters) and devout members from many different countries.  St. Andrew and St. James is now a cathedral.  Diana’s parents visited frequently and even after Aristides died in 1974 Artemis continued to come regularly until her death in 1989.  Diana has been able to 18Cathedral of San Jeronomo, 1980maintain her musical involvement by playing violin with the Baroque Chamber Quartet of Madrid and the Cathedral of San Jeronimo Sacred Music Orchestra.

From Spain Diana stays in regular contact with her Seattle family, relatives and friends where her roots are deeply entrenched.  She has friends from “before they were born” as their parents were close friends a generation earlier.  In Greece she has a good relationship with her ex-husband Evan and his family.  She is strongly influenced by her Greek background, even though while growing up she did not want to be different from her non-Greek friends.  For her, being Greek is like having “a small present on the side.”  Her favorite sayings are oti pothite (whatever your heart desires) and panda tetia (a toast to a joyous occasion that everybody will always enjoy this moment).  An eternal optimist, she values her family, the beauty of Seattle, her gift of music and her many associations throughout the world.  But most of all she “feels blessed beyond all understanding to have been born in the USA and for the unconditional love of her amazing family and friends.”

By John and Joann Nicon, April 2012

1 Diana with some of her photos, 2012
2 Aristides, circa 1928
3 Artemis and Aristidi, circa 1948
4 Diana and nouno (godfather) Masouras, 1934
5 Four generations, (l-r)  Diana, Ephstathia Panagiotou, Ganagista Danos, Artie Delimitros, Artemis Delimitros, 1935
6 Artemis, Artie, Aristides and Diana, circa 1938
7 Sisters and families, (l-r) Seated: Artie, Diana, Artemis, sister Konstantina (Tina) Mandas, Georgia and Carol Mandas; Standing, Aristides and Clarence Mandas, circa 1940
8 Diana, Artie, Aristides and Artemis, 1942
9-10 Diana and Artie, circa 1941
11 Diana and Artie, circa 1950
12 Diana and Artie, circa 1980
13 Maids of Athena: (l-r) Back row: Marianne Laskares, Artemis, unknown, Irene Tolias, Marguerite Laskares; Middle row: Vivian Therson, Vicki Carras, Mary Carras, Marian Marino, Gloria Stamos; Seated: Katina Melonas, Diana, circa 1950
14 Artie, Aristides, Artemis and Diana 1952
15 Evan and Diana wedding, 1952
16 Diana working in Athens, circa 1955
17 Diana’s boss General Nelson (under arrow) with colleagues, 1985
18 Diana (center) with the Cathedral of San Jeronimo Orchestra, Madrid, 1994
Photo 1 by John Nicon; all others from Delimitros and Bacas family collectionSOURCES
Video interview by John and Joann Nicon, April 2012