Greek-American Families

Characklis: Gregory and Artemis Characklis Families

Submitted by Joyce Zanetakos

Gregory and Artemis Characklis were from the area of Northern Greece. Gregory was from Trikala and Artemis was from an area close by in Thessaly where 3 small cities are located in proximity: Gardiki, Ayia Paraskevi (Tzourgia) and Athanamanis (Moutsara). Artemis was from Gardiki.

Gregory Arthur Characklis married Artemis Badayiannis in Greece and they came to America about 1930.

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They had 3 children, Joyce born May 12, 1931, Anastasia, born on April 20, 1932 and William (Billy) born on Aug. 21, 1941.

Gregory and Artemis were sponsored by their father’s uncle, Steve Foundas and his brother Constantine who had arrived in the 1920’s. The family connection was that Gregory’s father, Arthur Characklis had married Anastasia Foundas in Greece.

Gregory and Artemis had 2 daughters at that time, Joyce (Eftihia) and Anna being 11 months younger, and they lived with their great uncles, Steve and Constantine Foundas’ for about 10 years on Franklin St.

Joyce and Anna were part of the first-generation Greek Americans whose parents had emigrated to Annapolis. Both women lived thru the Depression and World War 2. Joyce remembers listening to the Roosevelt fire side chats and hearing of the bombing of Peral Harbor. When the attack Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 came across the news, Joyce started crying and Anna ran up to her room crying and perhaps to protect Billy.

Joyce remembers getting into trouble often with her young sister Anna and hiding from their mother and hiding in the bedroom of their Great Uncle Constantine who was recuperating. Constantine was sick with tuberculosis for several years before he died a young man. Constantine’s brother Steve, donated $50,000 in 1949 and the land to build the first Greek Church in Annapolis and it was named after his brother, Saints Constantine and Helen. That $50,000 figure in 1949 is equivalent to $547,000 dollars in today’s money.

Mr. Steve Foundas and his brother Constantine were successful businessmen at that time and Gregory worked long hours in their restaurants. When Bill Characklis was born, Gregory decided to move into his own house which was located on Murray Avenue. On that same street were other Greek families, like the Demas, Skordas and Economou families.

These families on Murray Avenue became very close and celebrated many happy events together. In fact, Joyce’s parents baptized Bessie Demas.

These families grew up together and according to Joyce it was a wonderful childhood living in a Greek enclave. On Name Days, each family would go to the family who was celebrating. So, on Saint Gregory’s everyone would go to the Characklis house to celebrate and Artemis would have a table full of food and Gregory would be serving drinks. No invitations, you just showed up, ate and drank, sang songs.

After the Church was built in 1949 these children of immigrants would go to Sunday School, sing in the choir or be altar boys. The church was the center of all activity for these early immigrants. When you were able to date it had to be a Greek boy and Joyce and Anna were among the most beautiful young women so they had many suitors.

One of the yearly events where Greeks could connect was the Panayiri held August 15 of each year. In Greece, August 15, the dormition of the Virgin Mary, is a national holiday marked by church services, dancing and eating. In Annapolis, the people from Joyce’s parents’ part of Greece, who lived in America, known as “Vlachi”, formed an organization called the “Aspropotamos Society”, named after the river of the same name that runs through their region. Gardiki is a rural mountain village in the Greek region of Trikala, Thessaly.

This Aspropotamos Society would hold a picnic and dance every August 15, mostly in Annapolis but also in Charlottesville where other Vlachi were located, such as the Tripolas, Costin, Pappas families and many others. This Panayiri event was also held in Georgia and Florida where other Vlachi could be found.

These Vlachi families were very connected as Nick and Sofia Tripolas of Charlottesville baptized Joyce Characklis and Arthur Costin and his wife, Elizabeth, baptized Anna Characklis. Jim and Daphne Clessauris parents and their daughter Zoe would come down to Annapolis from Aberdeen for the Panagere as would Vlachi from Westminster, Maryland. Zoe would become good friends of Joyce and Anna Characklis. Again, the connections mattered, as Daphne Clessauris was first cousin to Charlie Samaras.

Most important, it was Zoe’s future husband, Jim Moshovitis, who would later donate and exchange properties on Riva Road that allowed the current magnificent church complex to be completed in 1996

Annapolitan Steve Foundas was also a Vlachos, who owned a Chrysler dealership in Annapolis that many Vlachi would come from afar to Annapolis to buy cars from him and his brother Constantine.

The Panayiri was quite an event which was held over three days at the Annapolis Roads Country Club, off of Forest Drive, now the home of a sports facility for Key School. The flamboyant Shields brothers, Roy and Jim, owned the club which featured a golf course, pool and banquet hall with rooms overlooking the water.

The “Aspropotamos Society” would take over the facility for 3 straight days of swimming, dancing and partying with Greek and American bands. Many friendships and romances came from those fun events. Joyce remembers how she and Anna would dance the nights away.

Most of these children of Greek immigrants went to the same schools and would become life long friends, like Eva Alvanos, Helen and Liz Leanos, John Alvanos and his future wife Cecelia, George and Angie Nichols, Helen and Tony Pappas, and Ethel Fotos. Joyce remembers riding the trolley car to go to the local grocery stores as the supermarkets had not arrived.

Eventually, like many of the Greek immigrants, Gregory would open a restaurant of his own. The G and J restaurant was located on Maryland Avenue and Gregory opened it with another relative, Jim Pappas., thus the name G & J.

Joyce and Anna enjoyed working at the restaurant from an early age and eventually became waitresses there. They were both well liked and the customers took an interest in them as it was like a big family. Many of these children from Greek immigrants remembered learning the restaurant business, with its hard work and the great life teaching lessons it offered in dealing with people of all types.

However, as Joyce said, “Anna and I did not consider it work but helping our parents as my dad Gregory was in the kitchen and my mother Artemis was home raising Billy”. Joyce remembered that her father would always come out from the kitchen to keep an eye on his 2 lovely daughters.

Once Joyce was given permission to go the United Stated Naval Academy Ring Dance with a Greek midshipmen and had a great time. In those days, you were only allowed to date others who were Greek. In Greece, the parents actually wanted their children to not only marry Greek but from the same village or province.

Many of the midshipmen were frequent customers at the G & J restaurant. When these midshipmen graduated, they all went and formed a line at the restaurant to shake the hand of her father, Gregory, who had taken such good care of them over the 4 years. Joyce witnessed this and said it was so moving.

One of the customers who owned an insurance company told Joyce that when she graduated high school, she should come see him. Joyce worked at the insurance company for about 3 years. During that time Joyce got sick and had to pay cash for medical bills so when a job opened up at the United States Naval Academy with insurance benefits, she took it.

While Joyce was working at the Academy, King Philip and Queen Fredericka from Greece were making a tour of the United States, arriving the Academy on Oct. 30, 1953. The Academy was looking for a Greek speaking employee to greet them, so Joyce was selected. The King and Queen came up the steps at the Chapel and when they reached the top of the steps Joyce gave a bouquet of flowers to Queen Fredericka and told her and the King Philip in Greek: “Welcome”. Joyce remarked that the King was a very tall and handsome man with a chest full of medals and the Queen really looked like royalty

It was quite a day as Ted Siomporas, age 7, was dressed in a traditional Greek soldier costume, fustanella, and he later greeted the King and Queen at another ceremony at the Naval Academy. In his excitement, Ted’s cap fell off and there is a picture of Queen putting it back on his head.

Joyce remembers the sayings their parents would share with them and one in particular stands out when you really want to thank someone:

“Who is the mother that gave birth to you, and sent you to me”

Joyce and Anna were the children of the first generation who came to America in the 1900’s and Joyce remembers those years as some of the happiest days of her life.

Characklis family genealogy
ancestor main residence & marriage born died
Arthur Characklis: resided in Trikala, Thessaly, Greece

married Anastasia Foundas

Children of Gregory and Anastasia Characklis
ancestor main residence, career & marriage born died
Victor Arthur Characklis Annapolis restauranteur Main Street 1899 February 3, 1937
Gregory Arthur Characklis Annapolis restauranteur Main Street

married Artemis Badagiannis July 20, 1930

March 9, 1903 March 16, 1953
Artemis Characklis married Gregory Arthur Characklis March 3, 1911 Jan 27, 1991
Children of Gregory and Artemis Characklis
ancestor main residence, career & marriage born
Joyce Gregory Characklis Annapolis and Bethesda

married George Zanetakos July12, 1964

May 12, 1931
Anastasia Gregory Characklis Annapolis

married George Manis May 2, 1954

April 20, 1932 February 1, 2014
William Gregory Characklis Annapolis & Bozeman, Montana August 21, 1941 June 12, 1992