The ‘Geros Tou Morea Chapter #1’ of the Pan Arcadian Federation of America held a successful book presentation on Tuesday, March 10, at 2 p.m. at the Oasis Café and Bakery, 196-30 Northern Boulevard, Flushing, New York, next to St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. Catherine Tsounis, photo-journalist, educator and businesswoman presented her book “Through My Eyes: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church Flushing, New York 1987-2014.”
Persons and organizations who attended included: Presvitera Maria Diakovasilis, widow of the late Rev. Anastasios Diakovasilis; Archon Dikaiophylax Mr. Stephen and Arete Cherpelis; Apostolos Zoupaniotis, Publisher/Editor of the Greek News; Mrs. Ruth Wimpfheimer, Chief of Staff of NYC Council Member Mark Weprin; Mrs. Irene Cheung Founder and President of the Key Luck Club: Mr. Hermann Cheung, volunteer and professional photographer, Susan Chen and Josephine Peng of the Key Luck Club; Mrs. Athena Kromidas, Principal of William Spyropoulos School of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, Flushing, NY; Captain Stelios Tatsis and Evangelia Klidas of Panchiaki Korais Society; Jimmy and Marika Fotopoulos, Geros Tou Morea Society Chapter #1; Angie Yanas; Venita Lorras, Coordinator of the St. Nicholas Senior Citizens with Angie Georges, Vasiliki Turrigiano, Effie Sideris, Helen Di Gia, Aphrodite Catelidis, Cleoniki Metropoulos and Anna Tsiatis; Zoe and Stavro Katsoulakis; Angie and Tony Fokas; Kosta Koutsoubis, representing William Spyropoulos School founders Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Koutsoubis and family; St. Nicholas Festival Chairman Sotiris Georgiou, representing William Spyropoulos School founders Archon and Mrs. Renos Georgiou; Andreas C. George; Irene Vrahmes; Kyriaki Katerinis, members of the Kimisis Tis Theotokou Church of Southampton and members of the North East Flushing Community. Mrs. Marianthi Raptis and Mrs. Matina Botoulas were the hostesses.
The welcome address was given by Dr. John G. Siolas, Co-Chairman of the “Geros Tou Morea Chapter #1” Education Committee and Associate Professor of Education, Graduate Division, School of Education and Psychology at Touro College. A citation by New York City Councilman Paul Vallone of the 19th District was presented by Ruth Wimpfheimer.
Chief of Staff of NYC Council Member Mark Weprin. The Citation read: “Whereas, a great city is only as great as those persons who give exemplary service to their communities, whether through participation in voluntary programs, through unique personal achievement in their professional or other endeavors or simply through a lifetime of good citizenry; and Whereas, such service, which is truly the lifeblood of the community and the city, so often goes unrecognized and unrewarded: now, therefore be it Resolved, that as duly elected members of the New York City Council, we recognize that in Catherine Tsounis ‘Through My Eyes: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church Flushing, New York 1987-2014’ we have an outstanding citizen, one whom is worthy of the esteem of both community and the great City of New York. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand Paul Vallone, Council Member, March 10, 2015.”
“The Geros Tou Morea Chapter of the Pan Arcadian Federation of America would like to show appreciation of key persons who made the book presentation a success,” stated Dr. Siolas. “It is our unique honor to give these Certificates of Appreciation to the following persons: Hostesses Marianthi Raptis and Matina Botoulas; Angelo Amvrosiatos of Oasis Café and Bakery; Mrs. Irene Cheung, President of the Key Luck Club; Mr. Hermann Cheung, volunteer photographer of the Key Luck Club and educator/community activist Theodora Efthimiades.
“St. Nicholas Church of Flushing represents what Aristotle said that the most perfect political community is one which the middle class is in control, outnumbering both the other classes,” expressed Tsounis in her bilingual presentation. “Greek Orthodoxy and Hellenism survived four and a half centuries of slavery to powers such as ISIS. We did not die. We followed a road of dignity (αξιοπρέπεια). “Through My Eyes: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church of Flushing, New York” is a collection of newspaper articles. Many are not digital media and cannot be found on the internet. They will be lost in time.”
The author explained that her “writings are eyewitness accounts, the raw material for future studies. The book is in chronological order. It narrates: parishioners and educators’ successes; the ministries of Very Rev. George Passias, Very Rev. Paul Palesty and the late Very Rev. Anastasios Diakovasilis; the work of principals, Mrs. Athena Kromidas, Mrs. Chris Arlis, the late Mrs. Catherine Zangas and Mr. George Kanellopoulos; efforts and petition in 1990 to secure a federal grant; involvement of local Greek organizations; Education and PTA Social events of William Spyropoulos School and Stephen and Arete Cherpelis Afternoon Greek School; the Venita Lorras Library; school expansion; political leaders and the NYPD involvement; Festivals; and the historic visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide.”
Tsounis reported on the role of the following political leaders: the late Saul Weprin, Speaker of the New York State Assembly; former Assemblyman and now NYC Councilman Mark Weprin; former Councilman and present Assemblyman David Weprin; Peter Vallone Sr., first Speaker of the NY City Council in 1986; City Councilman, Peter Vallone Jr.; City Councilman, Paul Vallone City Councilman; Sheldon Leffler, former City Councilman and other prominent political and community leaders.
“Has a philosopher like you failed to discover that our country is more to be valued and higher and holier far more than mother or father or any ancestor, and more to be regarded in the eyes of the gods and of men of understanding?” said Socrates (469-391 B.C.) in “Crito,” dialogue by Plato,” explained Tsounis. “This ancient injunction that one’s country is to be revered above one’s parents and ancestors have been an ideal which Greek immigrants kept close to their hearts. The Greeks, founders of democracy 2,500 years ago, have been imbued with its defense during their long and glorious history. Defense of country and democracy was a trait of Greek immigrants to whatever country they immigrated to. This is especially true in the United States, where despite their small number in the total population, served in practically all of America’s wars. I have attempted to show “Through My Eyes: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, Flushing, New York 1987-1914” that the community holds these truths in their hearts.”
“This book is only here today because of exceptional publishers, newspapers and organizations who have printed my articles through the years,” the author explained. “They include: Tony Barsamian, Publisher/Editor of the Queens Gazette, Paul Kotrotsios of the Hellenic News of America and President of Hermes Expo, Apostolos E. Zoupaniotis, Publisher/Editor and Photographer/Editor Dimitrios Panagos of the Greek News; Anastasios Papapostolou, Publisher of GreekReporter.com; Mary and Christos Papoutsy of Hellenic Communication Service; Margo Catsimatidis and Jimmy Kapsalis of the Hellenic Times; Hellenic Voice; Hellenic Chronicle; Proini; Orthodox Observer; Tribune; Courier; Bayside Times; Queens Chronicle; Argus and other publications.”
“This is our first book presentation,” said Angelo Amvrosiatos. ”We wanted to create an unforgettable event.” The balcony and ground floor of the Oasis Café and Bakery had over forty persons, during an afternoon work day. Apostolos Zoupaniotis, publisher of the Greek News, said, “Catherine Tsounis does a great service to the community. She covers and writes about news events that would not be known to the public.”
Angie Yanas, a former administrator of New York City District 30 education district and leading person in AHEPA’s Daughters of Penelope said “Catherine Tsounis has many readers. Everyone reads her articles.” Key Luck Club President Irene Cheung explained she “is so glad to see the support of the community and church. The community appreciates Ms. Tsounis’ service, scholarship and preservation of the Hellenic culture. Our volunteer photographer Hermann Cheung was honored to be at the book presentation.”
Preserving culture and heritage plays a prominent role in the “Geros Tou Morea Chapter’s” support of this outstanding book presentation. “We are perpetuating our history in America by supporting this event,” said Dr. John G. Siolas. “We are preparing a bilingual Greek/English book illustrated with photos on Arcadian history. Our scholarship program has expanded to include both high school and college students and aid the Pan Arcadian Hospital.” Jimmy and Marika Fotopoulos represented the “Geros Tou Morea Chapter.”
“We always stood by Ms. Catherine Tsounis when she needed us,” said Captain Stelios Tatsis of Panchiaki Korais Society. The Panchiaki Korais Society Dance Group under the instruction of Anastasia Nitis and administration of Evangelia Klidas, performed traditional folk dances in support of Ms. Tsounis’ university Greek language courses and at the New York City Public Library. Captain Stelios Tatsis awarded scholarships on behalf of Panchiaki Korais Society to deserving students taking Modern Greek. Panchiaki Korais Society is known for its philanthropic work in the United States. They have been donating funds to the William Spyropoulos and Arete and Stephen Cherpelis Greek Afternoon Schools of St. Nicholas Church for many years. The author deeply appreciated their loyalty. She remembers her grandparents’ roots in Chios, where they settled as refugees from Tseme and KatoPanayia (seven miles away from Western Anatolia’s coast).
Presvitera Maria Diakovasilis recalled memories of the author’s grandmother, Despina Pappas, at St. Demetrios Church in Astoria, New York. “Kyria Despina welcomed Father Anastasios and me with opened arms when we came to Astoria from our island of Nisyros (part of the Dodecanese islands, opposite Western Anatolia coast). She was a member of the Philoptohos who showed us great love. We continue to be friends with her granddaughter, Catherine Tsounis.”
The presentation took on an international importance with the presence of Mr. Stephen and Arete Cherpelis, long-time members of Leadership 100. Mr. Cherpelis was honored with the 2014 Archangel Michael Award by St. Michael’s Home. He has the following honors: Archon Dikaiophylax of the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle; sponsor of the Stephen and Arete Cherpelis Greek Afternoon School, in Bayside, New York; Philanthropist; Defender of the Patriarchate in Constantinople; 1st Vice President of the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York City; recipient of an honorary plaque from His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for his role in the opening of the School of E.R.T.O. in Constantinople; Benefactor of the Ethnos (people) and other honors. He encouraged the beginning of the Modern Greek Scholarship program with Tsounis at a local university she taught at by donating $1500 in 2000. He continued donating a $500 scholarship every year anonymously until Tsounis’ university education career ended. He is a man who follows a righteous path, often walking alone in the face of adversity. He granted a $500 scholarship to the author for the publishing of her second book in the series “The Greek-American Experience.”
Mr. Cherpelis recalled the late Rev. Anastasios Diakovasilis’ humility, kindness and willingness to help all in an age of materialism. “I held a farewell party for Father Anastasios at my home. We raised over $30,000 for the Ronald McDonald House. Three hundred persons were at my outdoor barbecue. Father Anastasios made sure all donations went to the Ronald McDonald Fund.”
“In the late 1970’s, I owned the Steak Pub in Fresh Meadows,” said Archon Dikaiophylax Cherpelis. “A good looking, quiet, well-spoken young Greek-American woman came into my restaurant and told me of how she loved St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and Greek. I have four daughters. I wanted my American born daughters to be just like her. They became and are like Catherine Tsounis. The following week, the Bayside Times that I had a subscription, came to my house with a full-page article on the Steak Pub by Ms. Tsounis. That day I had so many customers, I did not have tables for them to sit at.”
“Through the years, Catherine would ask me for support of her projects. I was present at a Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in September 2014 with His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios. A young Romanian Greek Orthodox priest, Rev. Dr. George Zugravu, Dean of St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Hartford Connecticut, came up to me and hugged me warmly. He said ‘I was able to study Greek because of your $1500 of scholarships over three years. Your scholarships and studying Greek with Ms. Tsounis are the reasons I learned Greek and became a Greek Orthodox priest’.” Archon Dikaiophylax Cherpelis amazed the audience by saying “I am here today to make a donation of five hundred dollars to help cover the printing costs of Ms. Tsounis publication. I am personally buying an additional five books. A book will be given to the Holy Trinity Archdiocesan Cathedral library in New York City and my four children.”
The author was aided in the publishing of her book by Jose Antonio Rodriguez, Copy & Print Account Manager, Linell, Mary D., James and Raniem of Staples, 209-34 Northern Blvd., Bayside, N.Y. “Through My Eyes: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church Flushing, New York 1987-2014”, by Catherine Tsounis, Tsounis Publications, 326 pp. is $20. For more information email [email protected] or [email protected].