Chris George Pallis recalls many “Georgisms” from his father that have influenced his life. And, with four sons, his grandfather Chris had four grandsons named after him. Thus, Chris shares the name with three of his cousins.
Chris’s grandfather, Chris, and grandmother, Stamatina (nee Betsis), were from the small villages of Megalo Potami and Megalo Cehori northwest of Methana in the Greek Peloponnese. As far as is known, the Pallis name has been unchanged over the years. Chris came to Chicago, Illinois, at the age of 13 where he worked as a candy peddler. His cousins, the Polis family, lived in Seattle, Washington, and Chris moved there to be near them. In Seattle, he started the Sapho Café with Efthimios Malevitsis and George Apostolou at 120 Prefontaine Place South near the old police station. He traveled back to Greece where he married Stamatina who was 21 years younger than he. Five children were born to the couple, the first four in a 22-month period. Their first child was Tom, then twins Mary and Nick 11 months later, George another 11 months later and finally Greg.
Chris’s maternal grandmother, Stella Zaffee (nee Limantzakis), was sister to Alex Limantzakis and they were two of 13 siblings. Alex Limantzakis and his wife also moved to Seattle with their five children. Chris has 13 paternal first cousins, two first cousins on his mother’s side and a “ton” of second cousins both in Seattle and in Greece.
George Chris Pallis was born on April 1, 1927. He performed his military service in the Merchant Marines before graduating from Franklin High School in Seattle at the age of 20. He had wanted to be a dentist but was forced to leave school when his mother passed away and drove a bread truck for the Hansen Baking Company. He then began a real estate career, first with West & Wheeler in Seattle, then, started his own company, Pallis Reality, in 1950. He had as many as 12 agents working for him. Initially the business focused on residential properties in the Seward Park neighborhood of Seattle and expanded to include commercial properties. George was a self-taught golfer who loved to play with other Greeks including Gene Cotton, Gus Cooper (see WALLINGFORD REVISITED), Paul Carkonen (see FINDING GOOD FORTUNE) and Terry Karis (see MAKING GOOD PAREA). One always knew where the Greeks were on the course from their laughter and energetic conversations.
George met Venetia Zaffee at an AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association) convention when he was 30 and she was 19. They met in August of 1957 and were married on November 2 of the same year. Venetia was born on January 27, 1938, in Buckley, Washington. Chris recalls that she was “queen” of Buckley in a community festival of some sort. She was “beautiful, kind and had a fabulous, almost operatic voice,” sang in the church choir and was always singing around the house. Her mother, yiayia (grandmother) Stella Zaffee, was very spiritual and was a major influence in keeping her children and grandchildren close to the Greek Orthodox Church. Stella almost returned to Greece to become a nun when her husband died but Venetia convinced her otherwise to remain near her grandchildren in order to have an influence on their lives.
George and Venetia’s first child, Chris, was born on January 11, 1959 at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle. Demitri, born June 30, 1963, arrived four and a half years later, and their younger sister, Stellee, was born on September 28, 1965. Chris knows that most children believe their parents to be special and he certainly does. They were “loving, calm, hard-working and Chris never heard a bad word from either of them.” George and Venetia always instilled a sense of “humble confidence” in her children and George had many sayings which Chris calls “Georgisms” and which he has saved with plans to put them into a book. George died on June 23, 2003, and Venetia on January, 9, 2007. Both are buried in Seattle’s Lake View Cemetery along with Chris’s grandparents.
CHRIS GEORGE PALLIS
Chris fondly remembers his childhood, being with his parents and siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins nearly all of the time. “There always seemed to be impromptu dinners with the extended family” Chris recalls. He didn’t know if the family was rich or poor and it didn’t matter because “we were always so happy and full of life!” He learned Greek as his first language, mostly from his yiayia Stella who spoke only Greek to her grandchildren even though her English was excellent. Chris remembers having to translate for his brother with baby sitters as Demitri refused to speak English until he started school. He also remembers the Routos, Mykris (see THEIR PIECE OF THE PIE), Mitalas, Lavaris, and Dallas (see GIRLS OF GARLIC GULCH) families who also lived nearby in the area commonly referred to as “Garlic Gulch” because of the plethora of Greek and Italian families.
Chris is one of four cousins named after their paternal grandfather, as is the Greek tradition. In order to avoid confusion, they use their fathers’ initials for their middle names. Thus, there is Chris N. (Nick), Chris G. (George), Chris T. (Tom) and Chris G. (Greg). With two Chris G’s living in the same city of Mercer Island, they have chosen to use the full middle names: Chris George and Chris Greg. It is reminiscent of the scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding where cousins, Niko, Niko, Niko and Niko are introduced.
Chris George first attended Mrs. Rude’s preschool before starting at Graham Hill Elementary. He then attended Sharples Junior High and graduated from Kennedy, a “nice Catholic school.” Chris admits he was a “hellion” as a child, hyperactive and always in trouble, not serious, but playful. He received help with reading and writing but received honors in mathematics and science. He attended the University of Washington and transferred to Seattle University where he studied business and finance. His was a five-year program which he completed in 1982 and included frequent interruptions of working/skiing excursions to Sun Valley, Idaho.
He began working in commercial real estate, first for Basil Vyzis and then with Leibsohn & Company, a commercial brokerage in Bellevue, Washington. With eight years of experience he started Pallis Reality Advisors specializing in representing corporate tenants in sophisticated lease transactions. The company was a “spin off” from his father’s company which ended when George retired.
George and Venetia told Chris it would be nice if he married someone of Greek heritage and Orthodox faith, but if not, “make sure she embraces the Orthodox faith.” Chris was fortunate when he attended a YAL (Young Adult League of the Orthodox Church) Christmas party and met Vicky (Vasiliki) Carras who had moved back to Seattle from Hawaii the week before. Vicky grew up in Seattle with a large Greek family of her own. Chris and Vicky were married on Mothers’ Day, May 13, 1990. They have twin sons, Themio and George, after their respective grandfathers. Born on the 4th of July in 1996, the boys, when small, always thought the fire work displays were all for them!
Chris has taken on a rather unique hobby. In the early 1990s he took a performance driving class at Pacific Raceways near Seattle, did some “open lap” driving and completed a three-day racing class to obtain his racing license. He bought an old Porsche and, after some experience, joined Team Seattle, a group of road racing drivers and sponsors who have made a difference in their community by combining two passions: a love of motorsports and a commitment to Seattle Children’s Hospital. By racing in the Rolex 24-hour event at Daytona, Florida, and other races, Chris has helped Team Seattle raise up to $500,000 per year for their cause. It is fitting that Chris can use his parent’s phrase “humble confidence” as he does not talk a lot about his accomplishments but uses racing and other sports as a means of channeling his youthful energy.
George and Venetia’s second child, Demitri “Harry” Pallis was born on June 28, 1963 and has always embraced his father’s entrepreneurial spirit. When he was old enough to get a job and say goodbye to the newspaper route and the lawnmower, Demitri worked three jobs in his first summer: washing dishes at one place, bussing tables at another and scraping dough off the floor for Remo Borraccini’s Bakery. His first business venture started rather by chance through his interest in and appreciation of high quality audio equipment. He became an authorized independent Hi-Fi reseller in high school and sold specialized audio equipment to help pay for all of the new gear he wanted for himself.
Other temporary ventures aside, there was always a restaurant job in the wings. Restaurant work eventually led to bartending, where Demitri took what was supposed to be a temporary hiatus from college to focus on curriculum. In the process, he started the business he has now owned for 26 years. Much like one of his very first childhood notions of a curved hair comb meant to fit the shape of a head, Demitri’s current innovation is providing bartenders in the United States and Canada with gourmet mixes and high-end bar products plus an innovative way to improve cocktail service to bar owners and customers. The story of his business is best told on his website, Demitri’s, “The story begins in 1988 while he was working at the popular jazz club, The New Orleans Restaurant, in Seattle’s Pioneer Square. Demitri Pallis was frustrated at the inconsistent flavor and quality of his bar’s Bloody Marys. Like in many establishments, from bartender to bartender, day to day, a customer couldn’t count on consistent and delicious Bloody Mary recipes. So one day when he just couldn’t take it anymore, Demitri set out on a journey in mixology that would change the course of his life.”
Demitri has been married to his wife, Ishka, since 2000 and enjoys spending time in the mountains camping with Ishka and their sons, Yianni and Stefan. The family travels to the Czech Republic every summer to visit with Ishka’s family, where they see their young cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. Yianni loves to gather eggs from the chickens and help take care of the ducks, rabbits and garden. Though Demitri goes to Greece with Ishka and the family every few years, many of the relatives that lived there have passed on or moved away. Demitri and Ishka still remember the families and relatives that they’ve met over the years and share that vital history with their boys. Demitri has charted the family history to include five generations.
STELLEE PALLIS PAPADEAS
Stellee remembers how her father would drop his children off at school on his way to work in his big, long Oldsmobile. He was always dressed in a suit and trench coat. All the kids at school thought he was part of the Mafia and they were afraid of him. Big guy, big car, big broken nose – that idea protected his children pretty well.
Chris, Demitri and Stellee were their mother’s world. Everything she did revolved around them and their needs. She supported their sports, schooling and all the stray animals that Demitri brought home. Sunday family dinners were awesome. Usually yiayia Stella Zaffee would join the family. They would laugh the entire time, typically at yiayia Stella, as the boys, Chris and Demitri, would joke with her. She was a good sport.
Stellee graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor of arts degree in communications. Shortly thereafter, she married Gregory Papadeas and moved from Seattle to Denver, Colorado. She currently resides in Denver with her husband and four children, Venetia, Yianna, Nicolia and George. Outside of raising her four children, Stellee is very involved with the Assumption Greek Orthodox Cathedral where she has been teaching Sunday school for 15 years. She is also an active board member of the Hellenic Dance Academy, the Greek folk dance organization at her church.
Chris has had only positive experiences in his life. While his parents may have faced some difficulties as he was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s he could only be proud of his heritage. While he does not know the heritage of most of his friends, they all know he is Greek and often tell him how lucky he has been. He never felt he would fail and is grateful for the love and support from his family. He says his Orthodox faith comes first although it blends readily with his Greek ancestry. He believes he has a debt of gratitude to repay, to understand those around him and to assist those who are less fortunate than he.
For Stellee, growing up in the George and Venetia Pallis home was wonderful. She has very fond memories of her parents and her childhood. “They were the best parents in the world, loving, kind and supportive.”
The many “Georgisms” ring loud in Chris’s ears, especially the reminder that with his faith and family he will do the right thing and can accomplish anything he wants to do. He recalls cathe kopo yia kalo or “every bother for some good” as one Georgism. Another of his favorite reminders is on his parent’s headstone and reads “Grab the golden ring as it comes around in life, for there is a beautiful world out there if you make it so.”By John and Joann Nicon, September 2015
2 Sapho Café (l-r) Chris Pallis, Efthimios Malevitsis, George Apostolou, 1920
3 Chris and Stamatina Pallis, circa 1924
4 Chris Pallis family (l-r) standing: Chris and Stamatina; front: Tom, Nick, Greg, Mary, George, circa 1935
5 George and Venetia wedding, 1957
6 George Pallis family (l-r) Venetia, Chris, Demitri, Stellee, George, circa 1967
7 Venetia and George Pallis, circa 1991
8 Demetri, Stellee, Chris and Venetia, 2006
9 Chris, circa 1982
10 Pallis cousins (l-r) back: Bill, Chris Nick, Chris Tom, Tommy, Demitri; front; Nick Jr, Chris George, Chris Greg, 2012
11 Nick Carras family (l-r) Mary, Helen, Theme, Vicki, Nick, Angie, 1940s
12 Theo Carras, Vicky’s great grandfather, circa 1900
13 Vicky and Chris wedding, 1990
14 George and Themio Pallis, 2001
15 George, Vicky and Themio, 2001
16 Chris G. Pallis family (l-r) George, Vicky, Chris, Themio, 2014
17 Demitri, 1988 SOURCES
Video interview by John and Joann Nicon, October 2014; contributions of Demitri Pallis and Stellee Papadeas