From Spokane to Seattle to Bellingham, Mary Sellinas Hulbush has maintained her faith, her friends and her Greek heritage. Mary had two fathers, two marriages and has lived in three cities. Throughout her life her positive outlook and concern for friends and relatives have remained unflappable.
Mary’s two fathers were brothers from the island of Zakynthos in the Ionian Sea off the western coast of Greece. Stamatios (Sam) Sellinas (originally Salinas) was the elder brother; Dionysios (Danny) was two years younger. Danny was Mary’s biological father and Sam raised her as his own.
Sam was born on September 13, 1893. He arrived in New York in 1912 at the age of 19. He first went to St. Louis, Missouri, and worked on the railroad there. When he arrived in Washington State he worked on the railroad in Colville. The story goes that when he was applying for a better job he met the janitor who engaged him in a conversation. That janitor turned out to be the company president who used the guise to see what kind of person Sam really was. Sam learned to never accept a situation at face value as you may not fully understand it. In Colville he met a school teacher, Mary Daggy. Mary was born in Indiana in 1905. They married in Nez Perce, Idaho, on May 21, 1927, and moved to Spokane.
Danny was born August 15, 1895. He traveled on the ship Martha Washington from the port of Patras in Greece and arrived in New York on May 1, 1913 at the age of 18 with $25.00 in his pocket. He went to St. Louis, Missouri, and worked on the railroad with Sam. Making his way to Spokane, Washington, Danny met and married the beautiful Gladys Rudy, valedictorian at Rogers High School. Their daughter Mary was born at Sacred Heart Hospital on November 22, 1934. Danny’s life as a bootlegger created problems for him. He told his brother Sam he was going to retrieve some money that was owed him; Sam told Danny not to go. Tragically, Danny and several others were found dead at the scene by the police. The case was never solved.
In 1939 Sam went to Gladys’ mother’s home where Mary and Gladys lived after Danny’s death and said, “I’m taking Mary and raising her in the Greek Orthodox life and church.” So Mary came to live with her uncle and his wife, also Mary. Sam was also a bootlegger and owner of a gambling establishment although he never gambled himself. His connections in the Spokane community ran deep. He built the Greek-American Club above the Washington Market in Spokane. It was a very classy establishment that hosted entertainers like Sammy Davis Jr. and the Andrews Sisters. Many Greeks were employed there. When slot machines were introduced, business at the club declined and Sam opened a “4-5-6” (dice game) club in the neighboring state of Idaho. He also owned the Playfair Race Course in Spokane with George Manos, Sr.
Sam made a lot of money and was very generous. Mary recalls people visiting the Sellinas home in the middle of the night to ask for money. He gave it never expecting to be repaid. With only a meeting hall for Greek Orthodox Church services, Mary’s maternal grandmother would take her to a Pentecostal Church in Green Acres outside of Spokane. When Sam learned of this, he put a stop to it. This led to his generosity in support of a new church building in the 1940s, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Spokane. Sam was a major force in raising money for the church. When potential donors could not afford to donate, he would often give the amount himself.
Sam could be both tough and gentle. He was very firm in protecting Mary and would not allow her to use lipstick or fingernail polish. She says, however, that it was a great life at their small home in the Spokane Valley. There were chickens and a large garden with fruits and vegetables. Mary was very close to her older “sister” Eleni “Nitsa” (Sam and Mary’s daughter.) Nitsa was married to Don Davis for 60 years, had four children and died in 2004.
When Mary was five years old, the family moved to a large home previously owned by the president of the Spokane Water Company. Sam was at home during the day working in his garden but was gone every night working in the club or at the racetrack. Mary’s best friend was Alexandra Hanches, “…Happy to Be There to Help.” Alexandra and Mary went to school together for 12 years and were in each other’s weddings. Mary baptized Alexandra’s daughter and they are best friends to this day. Another close friend was George Alex, Spokane’s Gentle Giant. George Massouras, Tom Cassis, Mary and Chris Manos, Pearl Manos and the McGlaras, Karras, Besas and Prekeges families along with Mary’s nouna (godmother) Vivian Arger were also close to the Sellinas family.
When Mary began Vera Elementary School, she helped her friend Alexandra learn English as Alexandra spoke only Greek until that time. Mary and Alexandra can be seen here as members of the Maids of Athena, the junior auxiliary order of the Daughters of Penelope, the female affiliate of the Order of AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association). Mary finished high school at Central Valley High and wanted to attend Washington State College (now University) in Pullman, some distance from Spokane. Although Sam could easily afford it he said, “No, because there are boys there.” Mary replied, “There are boys at Central Valley too.” “Yes,” said Sam, “but at Central Valley you come home every night.” In the end, Mary attended Holy Names College, an all-girls school near Gonzaga University in Spokane. Although Mary liked the college experience, she didn’t choose a vocation as the family expectation was that she choose a Greek boy to marry.
In 1950 Mary attended a church choir convention where she met George Stamolis. Once she came to know George and his family, their marriage followed in 1955. The lavish reception was held at the new Spokane Coliseum. The couple moved to Seattle where Mary and George had three children: Denise (after her grandfather, Dionysios), Gloria and Thomas. She was very close to her mother-in-law but the marriage ended in 1973. Her children live in Sammamish, Tacoma and Everett and she is yiayia (grandmother) to seven grandchildren.
One day Mary’s son Thomas asked if he could visit his friend Ted Hulbush in Burlington, Washington. Not knowing where Burlington was, or who the Hulbush family was, Mary spoke with Ted’s father and the visit ensued. Ted’s father, Roger, asked Mary to pick Thomas up after the visit. When Mary arrived she met Roger and learned he owned the Hulbush Funeral Home in Burlington. She had always had an interest in funeral homes and was fascinated during a tour of the facility. After nine and fourteen years alone, respectively, Mary and Roger were married in 1982 and worked together in the funeral home. Roger dealt with the families of the deceased and Mary served as funeral director, attending to the administrative matters of the business. The blended family, including Roger’s children Ted and Sally, appears in the photo below.
When asked how her Greek culture has impacted her life, Mary says, “There is no one like us.” With her outgoing positive personality, Mary has kept close relationships with her friends and relatives not only in her three areas of residence but throughout the state. She does not hesitate to drive long distances to visit friends. Her life has been enhanced by her church, her faith and her Greek background in Spokane, Seattle and now Bellingham, throughout the changes. She began singing in the church choir at the age of ten and continues to do so. She takes an active role in the annual Greek Festival at St. Sophia in Bellingham and has served as parish treasurer for over ten years.
Mary says her family gives her strength. As for words of wisdom she asks, “Can you change it? Do you have control over it? If not, let it go and God will take care of it.”By John and Joann Nicon, March 2012
1 Mary with photo of Sam, 2012
2 Dionysios Sellinas, 1920s
3 Sam Sellinas, 1930s
4 Gladys Sellinas, 1920s
5 Mary at age three, 1937
6 Mary at Playfair Race Course: Sam on left, Mary at center; her horse “Mary’s Jeffrey” wins the Naval Reserve Purse, 1950
7 Nitsa, Mary, Mary and Sam Sellinas, circa 1950
8 Spokane Maids of Athena, 1950 (l-r) front: Mary Sellinas Hulbush, Alexandra Hanches Delegans, Florence Besas; sitting: Dina Salagianis Baker, Frieda George, Bessie Paras, Dorothy Alex; standing: Callie Gulusis Menegas, Vivian Delegan Arger, (advisor), Nitsa Sellinas, Carrie Panagakis, Mrs. Panagakis, (advisor)
9 Coliseum wedding, 1955
10 Working at King County Medical, 1970s
11 Roger and Mary, circa 1985
12 Hulbush family (l-r) front: Lindsay, Roger, Mary, Randy, Sally, Sara; back: Gloria, Jim, Tom, Kathy, Keith, Ted, Denise, circa 1993
Photo 1 by John Nicon; photo 8 from Hanches family collection; all others from the Hulbush Family Collection SOURCES
Video interview by John and Joann Nicon, March 2012; Greek Americans of Bellingham and Their Christian Friends by Stephen Margaritis, 1993