Greek-American Historical Museum of Washington State


Sisters Mary Lou Barton and Joanne Zarkades contribute innumerable hours to their church, not out of obligation but, just like their mother, it is just part of who they are.


Their mother, Eleni Fountoukakis (or Foundoukakis) and her twin sister Kiriaki were two of eight children: Nanos, Olymbia, Vasilios, Maria, Paskali, Constantinos and the twins. The family name which means growers of hazelnuts was somehow changed to Victor when the family settled in Tacoma, Washington. They were from the village of Galami on the island of Marmara where the family was expelled by the Turks, once in 1913 and again in 1922. When the family left Turkey, they settled for a while in Ammouliani, Greece. Much of the family story is contained in the book “A Lingering Breeze from Marmara Sea” written by their cousin, Katheren Armatas (see ALL HER GREEK SOMEDAYS).

Eleni’s father was Georgo Vasili. Their stepmother, Smaro, (his third wife), came to Tacoma in the early 1940s, died in 1942 and is buried in Tacoma. Eleni entered America through Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1925 with her sister Maria and settled in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her twin sister Kiriaki “Kitsa” was delayed in France with an eye infection and arrived later, in about 1926.


Constantine (Gus) Zarkades had two birthdays, January 18 and January 31, 1896, depending on whether one uses the Gregorian or Julian calendar. The latter date was used most commonly. However, when he retired, he used the earlier date so he could receive his Social Security check earlier in the month. Gus was born in Inos (or Enos), a fishing village in Turkey on the Aegean. In 1916, he left to avoid conscription into the Turkish army and joined his older brother Athanasiou in Danbury, Connecticut. When his brother returned to Greece, Gus remained in what he called “God’s country.” He shared little of his experiences in Turkey and Greece with his daughters, perhaps seeking to protect them from the unpleasantness he experienced there.

As a World War I veteran and Purple Heart recipient, Gus received assistance in finding jobs and obtaining education. He worked for the telephone company for a short time, then attended business college and two years at the University of Washington in accounting. In Tacoma, Lascos Sarantinos knew Gus and told him about some girls in Vancouver and that one, Eleni, was “OK.” Gus pursued the matter successfully and they, along with Lascos and Maria (Eleni’s sister), were married in a double wedding ceremony on June 5, 1927, at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Tacoma.

Gus and Helen established their home in the West Seattle neighborhood where their first three children were born: Vasili (Bill) on June 9, 1929; George on May 27, 1931; and Mary Lou on November 7, 1936. After the family moved to the Beacon Hill neighborhood in 1939, their last two children were born: Joanne on January 14, 1940; Nick on March 1, 1945. In 1946 George became ill with polio. He spent time in an iron lung at Swedish Hospital in Seattle and missed much of high school. He wore a brace from his foot to his upper thigh and used crutches to get around. The condition did not hinder his spirit. The Cleveland High School coach often picked George up from home and took him to basketball games where he was the scorekeeper. George went on to live a full life until he died in 1997.

There were several other Greek families on Beacon Hill including Gus’s sister Penelope Manolikas and George Michel who married Helen’s twin, Kiriaki. It was all Greek at home. The oldest son, Bill, had been called a “greasy Greek” at school in West Seattle. Later, when the family moved to Beacon Hill, they were among many European immigrants and were more readily accepted. With five children and George’s special needs, Helen was primarily a homemaker. Gus did most of the grocery shopping for the family. Helen is described as a sweet woman who never raised her voice. She understood but not well so she took English some classes at Broadway Edison (now Seattle Central College). After Gus retired she learned of an opportunity through her twin sister of doing handwork sewing for Fanaro, a respected men’s jacket maker. Now earning her own money, Eleni could enjoy shopping at the Bon Marche (now Macy’s) in downtown Seattle. The family attended St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church where the Rev. Stephan Phoutrides began introducing English into the services. They later joined Fr. Phoutrides and other families as founders of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption in 1939. After working for five or six years, Helen’s memory began to fade and the doctors said she was just “getting old.” She was ultimately diagnosed with dementia and Parkinson’s disease and died in 1991.

Gus Zarkades loved fishing! Perhaps it was from his experience as a child in a fishing village and then in the similar environment of Seattle. When the family lived in West Seattle, there were several Greeks living in houseboats on the Duwamish River and fishing provided their income. Gus awakened as early as three in the morning to go fishing and be home in time to go to work. He always caught fish of some kind. He would travel to known fishing sites in the state: Neah Bay, La Push and Ilwacco or along the Columbia River as well as near his home on the edge of Puget Sound. Newspaper and magazine articles, both local and national, featured this renowned sports fisherman in some fishing activity, whether setting records in a derby, sharing his catch with others, teaching classes at the YMCA or just enjoying the sport with friends and family. He taught fishing classes at the YMCA for 30 years with no pay and cut and packaged herring for bait. Mary Lou recalls Gus finally approving of her fiancé by gifting him a salmon at the Zarkades home. Often, when his students learned Joanne’s last name, they would ask with admiration, “Are you Gus Zarkades’ daughter?”

Gus was also a consummate salesman, working for 40 years at Crescent Manufacturing Company, the Seattle-based coffee, spice and seasoning firm where he became equally well-known.

In addition to his fishing prowess, Gus was active in AHEPA (American Hellenic Progressive Educational Association) and served on the parish council of his beloved Assumption Church. He was recognized as an Archon by the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Church and was a member of the Knights of St. Andrew. In addition, he held offices in the American Legion Forty-Eight Club and the Hellenic Civic Society.


Mary (Maria) Lou (Rallou) Barton (nee Zarkades) was born at the Columbus Hospital (renamed St. Cabrini Hospital) in Seattle. Her name is an Anglicized version from both her maternal and paternal grandmothers. She attended Beacon Hill Elementary School through the eighth grade. She remembers giving her mother a difficult time about attending school and she received some report cards indicating that she needed to come to class more often. She did grow to love school and graduated from Cleveland High School in 1954 with training in shorthand, typing and bookkeeping. With the help of her cousin, Mary Michel, she obtained a position at Fort Lawton (now Discovery Park) for the Washington Army Reserve. Then she met James Getchell and they were married on February 18, 1956. James was a Marine and for the next 22 years the couple was based in Quantico, Virginia, San Diego, California, Bangor Submarine Base in Silverdale, Washington, Camp Pendleton, San Diego, California, and Honolulu, Hawaii. In 1966 James spent a tour of duty in Viet Nam and retired in 1978 as a lieutenant colonel.

During that time, Mary Lou and James had four children. The oldest, Debbie, was born in 1956, Gunnar in 1958, Marni in 1966 and Kirsten in 1968. There are eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

After 30 years of marriage the couple divorced in 1986 and Mary Lou was on her own for the next 10 years. She started running and has 92 “T”-shirts from many events including three half-marathons. She also worked for Honeywell as an executive secretary in Bremerton, Washington, then in Mukilteo, Washington. While plans were being made for her 40th Cleveland High School reunion,she answered a call from John Barton, a former classmate who she knew as Roger and a relationship ensued. They were married on April 9, 1995.


Joanne (Ioanna) Theodora Zarkades was born on January 14, 1940, also at Columbus Hospital in Seattle. At birth, she was given the name Barbara Ann but then the thought was to name her after a grandmother, Theodora. Her brother Bill did not like that name as she might have been called “dirty dorty.” The name became Dorothy Ann but when she was baptized the name became Joanne Theodora. Her nouna (godmother) was Aspasia Phoutrides Pulakis, the daughter of the priest who helped establish the Church of the Assumption.

Joanne also attended Beacon Hill Elementary through the sixth grade and then Cleveland which was a combined junior and senior high school at the time. After graduation in 1958 she began a career with many different experiences where her jobs, rather than formal education settings, provided her knowledge. Her first job was in the garden department of Frederick and Nelson (now the Nordstrom flagship store) selling fertilizer on the eighth floor. Although not trained to work with numbers, that skill was her forte in subsequent positions. She worked for the Washington Dental Service for six years, managed doctors’ offices, a clothing manufacturer, a cardboard box maker, software companies and software associations. She worked at Providence Hospital for eight years in data processing, seven years in the business office and finally as director of patient accounts. She always depended on her innate ability and willingness to try new things. She admires formal education but knows its limitations if the education cannot be applied to a job or a task.


If one contacts the Church of the Assumption seeking to perform a memorial service, a recognition event or to use the community hall for any purpose, Mary Lou and Joanne will probably be involved. Mary Lou’s involvement began with singing in the choir at age 12 or 13. By hearing the Greek liturgical music all the time and with a large participation, choir practices were a social experience as well as a vocal contribution to the services. She recalls the northwest choir conventions, particularly one in Portland, Oregon. Their cousin, Mary Michel, was the choir director and Koko Skandalis played the organ. Although she was too young to join the choir, Joanne began by sitting next to Koko and turning the pages of music. Joanne’s organizational skills came into play when she combined hymns of different arrangements from several books into more useful three-ring-binders. She did the same for one of the choir conventions.

In 1996, an Assumption parishioner, Clara Nicon, asked Mary Lou to help make arrangements for a Philoptochos (women’s auxiliary) event. Since then, Philoptochos has become her passion. Mary Lou and Joanne regularly participate in activities such as bake sales, organizing and preparing for luncheon or dinner events, the annual Valentine Tea and contributing to PICC (Pediatric Interim Care Center) for newborn babies of drug-addicted mothers. Just as their mothers, aunts, godmothers and other women in the Assumption community before them, Mary Lou and Joanne believe their involvement is simply “part of who we are.”


The first language Mary Lou and Joanne heard was Greek. As Mary Lou says, “e glossa then yernai” (my tongue has not matured) enough to speak the language fluently. Both understand it well and cherish the richness the language adds to the Greek Orthodox faith. They remember feeling different from their peers when taking feta or kalamari and kalamata olive sandwiches to school and when Greek Orthodox and Western Christian Easters were five weeks apart. At a recent high school reunion one of Joanne’s classmates reminded her of that experience. Mary Lou could not go to school dances or date boys but when she insisted that she be able to attend her last school dance, she went but felt severely out of place among her schoolmates. Joanne, after listening to her older sister’s admonitions from her parents, chose to follow their restrictions and avoid the controversy. Still, there were girls club meetings and other activities and many school friends could be found visiting the Zarkades home. Mary Lou believes young people should “follow their hearts.” She and Joanne value their uniqueness having grown up Greek and being respected for their heritage. They remember being teased, just as all young people might, but never because of their heritage.

By John and Joann Nicon, October 2017 
1 Mary Lou and Joanne, 2016
2 Fountoukakis Family, (l-r) Smaro, Maria, Pasha, Olympia, George, Dan, Victor (Eleni and Kiriaki in front), 1912
3 Paul and cousin Katheren Armatas wedding, (l-r) rear George Zarkades, Bill Zarkades, George Michel, Olymbia (Victor) Christakis, Sophieno Christakis, Hilda (Savon) Victor, George N. Victor, Steve Victor, Irene (Chicopoulos) Victor, Gus Zarkades, Bill Victor; middle: Kitsa (Victor) Michel, Angela (Cocalos) Sarantinos (wife of Angelo Sarantinos), Lascos Sarantinos, Maria (Victor) Sarantinos, Katheren (Sarantinos) Armatas, Paul Armatas, Eleni (Victor) Zarkades, Eleni (Almas) Victor (wife of Bill Victor); front: Mike Michel, Joanne (Frost) Zarkades (wife of Bill Zarkades), Angelo Sarantinos, Mary Michel, Joanne Zarkades, Mary Lou Zarkades, 1954
4 (l-r) back; Gus, Tony Zarkades, Unknown: front; John Manolikas, Athanasios Zarkades, Unknown, early 1900s
5 Gus’s WW I purple heart recognition, circa 1918
6 Gus, by Tyee Studios, 1920s.
7 Gus Zarkades family, (l-r) Eleni, Joanne, Bill, Gus, Mary Lou, George, 1940
8 Gus and Eleni, 1970s
9 Gus and Eleni Zarkades, 1977
10 Gus, Mike Michel, Tom Neckas at LaPush, 1950s
11 Gus at salmon derby, 1950s
12 Gus at salmon derby, 1950s
13 Life Magazine article, April 7, 1961
14 Gus’s fishing diploma, 1965
15 Gus receiving salesman award, 1953
16 Gus with AHEPA brother Mike Papageorgiou, 1970s
17 Gus receiving Archon award from Archbishop Iakavos, 1971
18 Mary Lou high school graduation, 1954
19 Mary Lou and Jim wedding (l-r) Mary Michel, Tom Williamson, Katie Babunes, Jim, Mary Lou, Joanne, George, Rosemary Skandalis, Pipena Klieros, Alex Ozeroff, Mimi Getchell, 1956
20 Mary Lou’s children (l-r) Debbie, Kirsten, Marni, Gunnar, circa 1984,
21 Gus Zarkades family, (l-r) Mary Lou, George, Nick, Helen, Gus, Bill, Joanne, 1945
22 George, Joanne, Peter Evans and Nick Nicholas, 1966
23 Clara Nicon with Nick Zarkades, early 1960s
24 Gus Zarkades family, (l-r) Mary Lou, George, Nick, Helen, Gus, Bill, Joanne, 1977 Photo 1, 5 and 13 by John Nicon, 6 by Tyee Studios, all others from Zarkades family collection
Video interview by John and Joanne Nicon, September 27, 2016; Transcribed interview of Gus Zarkades by Dr. Robert Theodoratus