In 1962 Larry Rouvelas, the father of Emanuel (Manny) Rouvelas and Pauline (Rouvelas) Spyridis, purchased the Athenian Inn, Seattle, Washington’s landmark restaurant in the Pike Place Market, from his uncles who founded it in 1908. Manny and Pauline share stories about their family life, continual quest for education and constant reminder from their father to “think first.”
Eleftherios “Larry” Emanuel Rouvelas was born on October 18, 1915, the sixth of ten sons born in Archangelos or Archangel, Greece, which is in Laconia on the southeastern tip of the Peloponnese. His parents were Emanuel Rouvelas from Archangelos and Panagiota Papadakis from the adjoining village of Elika. Ferrying and fishing was the family way of life as his village was only accessible from the sea. Larry left home at about the age of 12 to begin working on fishing boats in the Athens port of Piraeus. At about 16 he went to work on merchant ships. Life in the Merchant Marines was very difficult; the work was very hot and the scraps of food were often infested with bugs. When his ship docked in France, he and several other complaining mariners were jailed until a Greek man with connections arranged their release. Larry quit the Merchant Marines soon thereafter, returned to Greece and then served in the Greek Navy.
Larry re-entered the Merchant Marines in 1938. Conditions in Greece were deteriorating and he envisioned a better life. When the Greek ship on which he was serving docked in New York he took the opportunity to visit relatives, the George Lilakos family. He planned to retrieve his belongings from the vessel and “jump ship.” His relative’s advice to him was, “No, if you go back to the ship, they’re going to catch you. Don’t go back, just leave.” So he came into the United States without a toothbrush, without any money, without anything. He stayed with the Lilakos family for a short time until he traveled west by train to Seattle to work for his maternal uncles, Gus, Tony and Andrew Papadakis, who had established the Athenian Inn in 1909. He washed dishes seven days a week working 16 hours a day for $9.00 a week. During the Depression when the Athenian closed at 6:00 pm, there were as many as sixty hungry people waiting outside. They would be given free soup from bones and meat that had been boiling all day in a big pot and bread. Larry worked there for two years then took a job at Glazer Beverage making $42.00 per week. He was drafted into the United States Army during World War II and was scheduled for deportation as an illegal alien upon completion of his service. Since he was married to Mary (nee Derezes), a United States citizen, he was assisted by Senator Warren G. Magnuson and eventually become a citizen himself.
Larry’s bride, Mary Derezes, was born in Seattle on October 1, 1921, and was the oldest of five children. Her parents were Socrates Derezes and Fotene Meleas from two towns southeast of Kalamata in the Peloponnese: Koutifari and Trahila. Larry met Mary and the rest of the Derezes family at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Seattle. Mary was a young secretary who worked for the government. Because they were from the same part of Greece they invited him to dinner. Fotene liked Larry but Socrates did not want his daughter to marry an immigrant. Fotene and Mary overruled Socrates and the couple was married on February 15, 1942. At the time Mary thought Larry had $500 in the bank. She later found out that it was only $5. However, love prevailed and they spent over 50 years together before Mary passed away in 1992. Larry did not want his wife to work. She did not nor did she ever learn to drive. When they were first married, she did not know how to cook, so Larry offered to teach her. Their children remember the story about the ﬁrst “lesson.” Larry put a pot of water on the stove and, when it came to a boil, he told her to keep stirring the pot so the water wouldn’t scorch, and she did! She eventually became a wonderful cook. Larry frequently expressed his gratitude for the freedom and opportunities in America. He had a second grade education and Mary was solidly American with a high-school diploma. Education was highly valued by both. Larry made up for his lack of formal education by always thinking first. After working for Glazer Beverage, Larry spent a short time as a welder in a shipyard. After the war he joined George Taggas in a partnership to operate the Bungalow Tavern on Roy Street in Seattle with an adjacent café. He eventually bought out Taggas and continued to operate the Bungalow for two decades. Larry later purchased the Athenian Inn from his uncle Andrew Papadakis and operated it from 1962 to 1966. Having worked up to 18 hours daily, like so many immigrants, he retired at the insistence of his family and seemed to become younger in retirement. In 2002 while visiting the family village of Archangelos he snorkeled for three hours with his grandniece, ate lunch with his brother and dinner with the family overlooking the sea. He then lit a candle in the little church where he was baptized and went home. He died that night in his sleep.
Pauline (Panagiota) Frances (Fotene) Spyridis (nee Rouvelas) was born to Larry and Mary in Seattle on December 24, 1945. Her baptismal certificate reads “Panagiotitsa” (little Panagiota). When she was very small, she remembers speaking only Greek at home. However, when she was to begin school, her parents began speaking only English to prepare her. The family lived in the lower Queen Anne neighborhood, a lot later occupied by an International House of Pancakes and now the Mediterranean Hotel. Pauline remembers polishing the newels on the large staircase inside the front of the home. There was also an old log cabin on the property which dated back to the early pioneer days of Seattle and was last operated as Green’s Log Cabin Tavern. The cabin was subsequently donated to the Historical Society of Federal Way and has been reconstructed as an historical site.
Pauline attended Warren Avenue Elementary and graduated from Queen Anne High School in 1964. She attended the University of Washington in Seattle majoring in sociology and preparing for a teaching career. She then worked for a few years at the University’s retirement and insurance office. During her teen years she was only allowed to attend social events with a group, not on a single date. Her father was very strict. He would not allow her to wear patterned hose and it took a petition signed by a large number of Pauline’s girlfriends to convince Larry that she should be allowed to shave her legs. Most of her social activities were within the Greek community, either at picnics, name day celebrations (the day on which the saint after whom one receives their baptismal name is recognized), with Greek Orthodox Youth of America (GOYA) or Maids of Athena (the junior womens’ counterpart to AHEPA [American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association]). She spent time with her cousins Peggy and Anna Falangus, with Georgia Economou, the Davis family and Kathy Chohlas. During this time she met Elias (Louie) Spyridis, her future husband, to whom she was married on November 27, 1974. Their two sons are Larry (after Pauline’s father) and Greg (Gregorios after Louie’s father). Louie changed from being a King County police officer to establishing his own business, L & P Service and Repair which stood for Louie and Pauline. Pauline was his “gopher” as they began with small home repair projects and then to larger construction projects, hiring their sons and occasionally outside help. Tragically, Louie died from a cerebral aneurism in 1993.
Pauline spent over 24 years at Morelands Elementary in the Northshore School District. She cherishes the time spent with her students and has kept contact with several over the years. She volunteers at Wonderland pre-school for developmentally delayed children, a school started by a collegial group in the 1970s. She also belongs to several book groups with former co-workers, practices water aerobics and especially loves spending time with her two granddaughters, Justine and Mary Spyridis.
Emanuel “Manny” Eleftherios Rouvelas was also born in Seattle on September 10, 1944. He is particularly appreciative of his schooling. Warren Avenue Elementary was in a neighborhood considered to be rough for the time. It was somewhat transitional and unstable with students from a variety of races and ethnicities. Additionally, the school was the center for children with special needs. Manny found the culture in the school to be very rewarding as he learned to see people’s strengths even when they had disabilities. He began working for his father when he was 12 years old and “learned much more working there than I did at any school, about serving customers, getting along with people, keeping your eyes open and understanding service.” He graduated from Queen Anne High School in 1962 and attended the University of Washington which he loved and where he still maintains close connections. He had always wanted to go to Harvard Law School and even found a paper his mother saved when he was in fifth grade saying that he wanted to go there, and he did.
Manny met his future wife Marilyn Edmunds, while attending the University of Washington in Seattle. She had been raised a Lutheran in Spokane, Washington, and was of French and English descent. Everything from the food Manny ate to the church services he attended seemed foreign to her. One of their first dates was at a small Greek nightclub in Seattle, pulsing with the exotic sound of bouzouki (a plucked string instrument similar to a mandolin) music. They nibbled on tidbits Marilyn couldn’t identify and drank strange wine called retsina (white, resin-flavored wine). They were married on July 29, 1967, at Seattle’s St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church They have two children, Eleftherios Emanuel and Mary, named after their paternal grandparents. They have four grandchildren: Zoe and William (Vasili) Gould and Eleni and Emanuel Rouvelas.
When they first met, Marilyn searched in vain for a book that would help her with the basics of Greek-American living but couldn’t find one. After embracing the Greek Orthodox faith and Greek culture she eventually wrote A Guide to Greek Traditions and Customs in America in 1993. Its purpose is to welcome people of non-Greek ancestry to the rich Greek heritage and help them appreciate Greek traditions and customs. The book, in its second edition and 13th printing, is sold all over the world and has made over a million dollars for Orthodox charities. Manny says he considers his biggest contribution to preserving Hellenism the marriage to Marilyn, who was chrismated at St. Demetrios and later served on the parish council and Philoptochos (women’s auxiliary) board of St. George in Bethesda, Maryland, the Archdiocese Council of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, writes Orthodox children’s books and advocates for the restoration of ordained women deacons in the Orthodox Church, (www.orthodoxdeacons.org).
During his time at Harvard Law School Manny attended the National Security Policy Seminar conducted by Henry Kissinger. For a full year he studied under Kissinger and wrote a graduate paper on Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus. Manny went from Harvard Law School to Chicago where he worked for the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis. In 1968 Manny and Marilyn watched the Democratic convention in Chicago, Illinois. Demonstrations at the convention and the events of 1968 convinced Manny that he did not want to stay in a conservative political environment but that he would prefer to perform public service. So he obtained a position in Washington, D.C. as counsel to a Senate committee. His familiarity with Cyprus became cogent as he experienced the invasion of Cyprus by Turkey in 1974. He and Marilyn found themselves swept up in the controversy and marching around the White House protesting the Turkish invasion.
Manny’s principal focus professionally has been in the broader American and global market as a corporate maritime and government affairs lawyer. He opened the Washington D.C. branch of the Seattle law firm Preston-Gates-Ellis. His ﬁrm was called Preston Gates Ellis and Rouvelas Meads. The ﬁrm has now merged with another and is called K & L Gates. Manny has been recognized and received several awards for his work in government relations, international maritime and participation in the Greek community. He continues to perform pro bono work for a wide variety of non-profit organizations and was a trustee and vice chairman of the Board of Trustees of the American College of Greece, Deree in Athens where he taught for a semester as a visiting professor in 1999. Manny and Marilyn have continued to live in the Washington, DC, area and frequently return to the family village of Archangelos during their travels throughout Greece.
Pauline’s son Greg has created a video recording of his grandfather Larry. As evidence of Greek family pride, Greg recalls a story from the video where his grandfather Larry and Larry’s friends were drinking wine in the family cellar and Larry’s father seemingly overlooked the misconduct. However, when the friends left, Larry was severely chastised. Punishment might be privately meted out to one’s child but never in the presence of others. Greg also describes how the Greek culture has influenced his life as well as his mother’s. It’s not necessarily the language, the dancing or the music, but rather the deep emotional feelings of pride, a sense of honor and the love of others. A Greek person may be eager to hug someone as an expression of caring or friendship, something many non-Greeks may never understand.
Pauline summarizes the feelings she and her brother share in the following words: “My brother and I have spoken very frequently and thanked God that Dad decided to migrate to the United States and that Mom and Dad stayed here instead of going back to Greece to live. I know that both of our lives would have been very different if we’d been raised there.” Both Rouvelas children embraced their Greek and American cultures with equal fervor. Their parents instilled the love of education and awareness of politics and government early in their children’s lives through discussions at the dinner table. Manny was inspired by his educational experience and is honored to “give back” to education with his work in the United States and in Greece. In addition the family has endowed scholarships honoring their parents, Larry and Mary, at the American College of Greece and established the annual Eleftherios (Larry) and Mary Rouvelas Endowed Writing Prize in Hellenic Studies at the University of Washington.
While maintaining their love of Greek culture and tradition, Pauline and her family are less active in the Greek community now than during her early years in Seattle. Birthdays for their children and grandchildren supersede name days and the Greek language is rarely used. Pauline feels especially proud when someone of Greek descent accomplishes something in sports, politics or public service. She never felt ashamed or shunned as a young Greek woman but remembers her parents’ warnings that “the eyes are always on you,” meaning conduct yourself as if you are always being watched and never bring shame or embarrassment upon your family.
By John and Joann Nicon, September 2014
1 Pauline and Manny Rouvelas, 2014
2 Archangelos, Greece, 1926
3 Rouvelas first fishing boat, circa 1930
4 The ten Rouvelas brothers: Peter, John, George, Spiro, Michael, Chrysanthos, Larry (Eleftherios), Mitsos, Andreas and Nick, early 1950s
5 Mary and brother George Derezes commerative plaque, 1920s
6 Derezes family (l-r) Fotene, George, Helen, Jim, Mary, Sophia, Socrates, 1930s
7 Larry and Mary wedding, February 15, 1942
8 Mary and Larry Rouvelas, 40th Anniversary, 1982
9 Larry Rouvelas at the Athenian, circa 1964
10 Larry with Vice President Al Gore, 1996
11 Larry at Alki Point, Seattle, mid 1990s
12 Manny and Pauline Rouvelas, circa 1950
13 Pauline, circa 1958
14 Pauline and Louie, circa 1980
15 Larry and Greg Spyridis, 1980
16 Louie, Pauline, Greg, Larry, circa 1984
17 Larry Rouvelas family (l-r) Manny, Larry, Mary, Pauline, circa 1954
18 Manny, circa 1962
19 Marilyn and Manny Rouvelas, 2006
20 Marilyn’s book cover
21 Emanuel, Professor Chris P. Tsokos, and Marilyn Rouvelas, 2005
22 Manny Rouvelas, K&L professional photo, 2013
23 Rouvelas family at 50th wedding anniversary (l-r) Mary Rouvelas Gould, Larry Rouvelas, Marilyn Rouvelas, Mary Rouvelas, Manny Rouvelas, Larry Spyridis, Pauline Spyridis, Larry Rouvelas, Greg Spyridis, Louie Spyridis, 1992
PHOTOS: Photo 21 courtesy American Foundation for Greek Language and Culture; 22 from K&L Gates web site; all others from Rouvelas and Spyridis family collections SOURCES Video interview by John and Joann Nicon, January 2014; writings of Pauline Rouvelas Spyridis; transcript of interview of Emanuel Rouvelas by Tom Tsouras and Vivian Haritos for the National Hellenic Museum, February 2010; video interview with Larry Rouvelas by Greg Spyridis