Getting to Know My Grandmother, Angelina Eftaxias Pappas

Yiayia Angelina Eftaxias was born in Mystras on September 17, 1896 and died in Paterson, New Jersey on October 28, 1972. I remember her well, and I was always impressed with her strong, independent spirit. My mother, Catherine often said that Yiaia was born years before her time and if she was alive  today, she would be out with the activists, fighting for women’s rights and other social issues.

Yiayia was brought to the U.S. by her stepbrother, John Eftaxias, on March 25, 1911. She lived in New York City with her half-sister, Kanela Petron, and worked in a factory, making batteries. After her marriage to Louis Pappas (Papagiannakos) she lived in Hoboken, New Jersey and raised four children: Catherine (my mother),  Panagiota (Bertha), Nick and Bill. She loved to shop and would take the ferry from Hoboken  to New York City several times a week and come back with bargains. She did not speak or read English, but that did not stop her excursions to the big city. Her hands were constantly busy, crocheting tablecloths, furniture scarves, bedspreads and other handwork. My grandfather owned a restaurant, and yiayia worked with him.

After my grandfather’s death, Yiayia owned a house in Westwood, New Jersey with her son, Bill and lived there with Bill and his wife, Pauline. For a while, she worked at a doctor’s dormitory in Westwood as a house-mother to interns. In her later years, Yiayia suffered a stroke, and Bertha and her husband, Nick Pouletsos, made an apartment for her in an auxilliary building on their property in Hillsdale, N.J. She spent some time traveling to the western U.S., and lived for a time in Glendale, California, close to her son, Nick, and his family. When Yiayia returned from California, she lived half the year with Bertha and half with my mother, Catherine, until her death.

I love my Yiayia and wish that I could have had time to spend with her when I became an adult. My Mom says that I inherited many of her qualities: her creative hands, her spunky spirit, and her love of activity and people. This helps me to feel close to her, even though she died when I was only 25. One of my treasured photos is yiayia holding my oldest child, George. I am thrilled that she had the opportunity to meet her great-grandson.

Angelina Pappas with great-grandson, George Lynard, 1970

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