Embracing the American Dream
Savvas and Magdalena Pantelides 1981
We are all sitting around the large dining room table with relatives. Our father, Savvas Pantelides once again insists that we listen to stories of our family and how we are all related. Little did we realize then how important those stories would be, as they are foundational to who we are. We work to capture those stories along with those told by our mother, Magdalena Comsudis Pantelides. With great gratitude to our parents and grandparents, we honor their courage and resilience in embracing the American Dream.
Family Gathering Pantelides Home, 10 Stehle Street
Savvas Ioannou Haji Pantela
Savvas was born in Cyprus on March 1, 1909 in Yialoussa, Cyprus to Ioannou and Erini Haji Pantela. Savvas’ father’s great, great grandfather, who was a merchant named Savvas, did a great deal of trade in the Middle East. On one of his trips to Palestine, Savvas fell in love with a Palestinian Christian Princess named Eleni. Savvas brought Eleni home to Cyprus and they were married. Savvas and Eleni had one son, Pantela, who was very sickly, so they sent him on a pilgrimage to be baptized in the River Jordan. This is a special pilgrimage for Orthodox Christians. Once someone is baptized in the River Jordan, then all of their descendants are entitled to the “Haji” title in front of their last name. “Haji”, interchangeable with “Hadji”, means “Holy”. From then, we were Haji Pantela. Pantela married Melia, who was also a Christian from Palestine and they had a son named Ioannou.
Savvas’ parents owned a farm. His mother, Erini (Irene) Papanicolaou, was a daughter of a priest, thus the “Papa” at the beginning of her name. Erini believed that good health and relationships are what matter most in life. She was independent and intelligent. She had five sisters: Evanthia, Maria, Christina, Athena (who won a beauty contest) and Florandia (who was Paul Nicholas’ mother). Paul Nicholas’ family is the only maternal relative on Savvas’ side in Annapolis. The other relatives are from Savvas’ paternal family. Savvas was named after his father’s brother who was a teacher.
Savvas’ Parents: Ioannou and Erini Haji Pantela on their farm in Cyprus 1890s
Savvas Pantelides had five siblings and in the following birth order: Nick, Pantela, Savvas, Aristides, Eleni, and Maritsou. According to Savvas’ Army papers, he was only able to complete up to grade 7 under British colonialism in Cyprus. The British had some days when only the British students attended school in the British protectorate. He was able to continue to learn English when he went to London. Savvas and his brother Nick, had an older friend from Yialoussa, Nick Modinos, who had immigrated earlier to London from Cyprus and they joined him there. Thus began the migration that eventually brought them and their families to America.
Cyprus to London
Savvas left Cyprus with the determinism to start a new life and to help his parents. He changed his papers to say he was 18 instead of 16 years old, and went to London in 1925. In London, he stayed with Nick Modinos and fellow Cypriots John Kallis and Kallis’ first cousin, Zacharia Petros. Later they were joined by Savvas’ brother Nick, their first cousins, Paul Nicholas and Achilles Pantelas, and Costa Zacharoudis (Andre Pantelides’ Nouno). The story was that John Kallis wore a heavy coat year-round so he could bring home food from the restaurant where he worked to feed the Cypriot boys. It was a small apartment and they took turns sleeping in 12 twelve hour shifts. Cousin Louie Loizou, who moved to Annapolis via England and Canada, said that when the early Cypriots came to London, many stayed at a restaurant called “The Beautiful Cyprus Restaurant” whose owners were related to his wife, Antigone. Louie’s son, Dean Loizou, recounts stories from his mother of these Cypriot boys being fed and sleeping on tables at night until they could get on their feet. With limited English, they became dishwashers and worked their way up to bus boys, waiters and cooks. Some worked at the finest restaurants in London, including the Savoy.
These friendships in the 1920’s grew and strengthened when they joined each other in Annapolis during 1930’s and 1940’s and with Costa Zacharoudis and his family in Buffalo and later in Arizona. Achilles “Uncle Benny” would later become a chef at Savvas’ Royal Restaurant. Paul Nicholas would stay at Savvas’ home in Annapolis with his wife Eleni until they could get established. Paul and Helen would build a restaurant business, Paul’s Café, now operated by their children. John Kallis and Zacharia Petros would work together at the Presto Restaurant which was a block from the Royal Restaurant.
London to Ellis Island to Baltimore
Savvas arrived at Ellis Island from London on the SS President Roosevelt on January 26, 1930 during the United States (U.S.) Great Depression. He was 22 years old. According to his Certificate of British Nationality, his British passport, and also on the U.S. Department of Labor Certificate of Arrival, his last name was Savvas Ioannou Haji Pantela. His name was changed to Savvas Pantelides.
Savvas’ British Passport
Savvas’ Certificate of British Nationality
Nick Modinos, who sponsored Savvas and his brother Nick to the U.S. had come to America in the 1920’s and had settled in Wilmington, North Carolina. Savvas and his brother Nick worked at Modinos’ restaurant for a short period but came back to Baltimore and worked for another Cypriot, Steve Sophocles, who had a food stall in the Lexington Market. Savvas’ first residence in Baltimore was on 1022 South Light Street. After Savvas was married, he would visit his Baltimore friends often along with his family. They would meet at their Baltimore row homes and at the market where they worked. The connection with Baltimore friends remained strong.
Savvas’ Certificate of British Nationality
Savvas worked as a counter boy at Nick’s Restaurant for $3.25 a week and he split the cost of the $1.25 a week apartment with his brother Nick. He was then made manager and his pay went to $7.50 a week. This was in 1930 and Savvas also moonlighted washing windows. Later Savvas opened a hot dog place on Light Street called Pauline’s which he co-owned with Vasili (Bill) from Baltimore. Friends called Vasili, Bill the Bolshevik, because of his labor leanings and would tease Bill that he was a communist. The story was that Bill encouraged the four waitress at Pauline’s to go on strike. Savvas agreed to pay the waitresses more but he knew that Bill had instigated it. Remember this was during the depth of the Great Depression.
Soon afterwards, Savvas and his brother Nick started a larger restaurant on 25th and St. Paul’s Streets called St. Paul’s Inn. In 1932, within two years of arriving in the U.S., Savvas was listed as a restaurant proprietor on his U.S. Petition for Citizenship. He lived at 101 East 25th Street in Baltimore. Later Savvas would persuade Steve Sophocles to sponsor his nephew, Paul Sophocles and the entire Sophocles family to the U.S. who settled in Baltimore. Paul Sophocles would later move to Annapolis and marry Savvas niece, Irene Kacoyianni. Paul’s first job in Annapolis was as a chef at the Royal Restaurant.
Savvas always talked about Panagiotista “Mary” and her husband Nick Karangelen in Baltimore who would invite all the Greek immigrants during the 1930s to come to their house for food and company. Their son Pete, of the Kent Lounge in Towson, recalls that his parents always had people over at their home. Pete and his wife have a daughter, Dana Karangelen, who is friends with Savvas’ grandchildren. Many in the Greek Baltimore community were of great help to these early Greek immigrants. They opened their homes and hearts in the Greek tradition of generous hospitality and helping others, even strangers with no family connection. It made a difference in these young men’s lives. Once these young men became established, they would extend the same compassion to the immigrants who came to America after them.
Sergeant Savvas Pantelides
Savvas with Troops
Savvas became a U.S. Citizen on January 13, 1936 in Maryland. He lived at 2429 Calvert Street, Baltimore. He enlisted in the Army during WWII and served as a cooking instructor. He graduated to Mess Sergeant on September 12, 1942 at Cooks & Bakers School. He received a Good Conduct Medal SO Par 8 Hq ARTC on December 16, 1944. Savvas was a Marksman 30 Cal Rifle September 3, 1943. He was promoted to a 33 200 649 Staff Sergeant with Company C First Battalion Armored Replacement Training, Ft. Knox, Kentucky. On a side note, when he was in training at Fort Meade, Maryland, Tom Siomporas secured Savvas a Sergeant uniform as Savvas was a Private at the time. In that way Savvas would be able to leave the barracks and go to Baltimore to speak with his brother Nick who was accruing loans on their co-owned restaurant. As a result of this action, Savvas was able to save the restaurant. Savvas served in the Army from May 20, 1942 until October 7, 1945 when he was honorably discharged.
Magdalena Comsudis Pantelides
Magdalena Theodora Koumsoudis was born July 16, 1918 and was delivered by a midwife at their home in New York city in the year of the Great pandemic of 1918. Magdalena’s mother, Anastasia Xanthou, was from Siatista (Σιάτιστα) and learned the fur trade there as a seamstress. Siatista is a former municipality in Kozani regional unit, West Macedonia, Greece and known for its minks. It has a rich cultural past as a popular trade fairway for traders who came there to buy furs. Anastasia immigrated to the U.S. alone at 24 years of age on the ship Vasilefs Constantinos from Piraeus on June 14, 1916. She stayed with a cousin in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She later moved to New York city which employed many Greek seamstresses who didn’t need to speak English to bring the trade they knew from Greece. The women enjoyed speaking Greek to each other and singing Greek songs as they completed their tedious work.
Magdalena Comsudis, 1938
Anastasia married Savvas Koumsoudis who was from the island of Limnos. He was a 30-year old laborer when he immigrated to the U.S. on November 21, 1906 on the La Gascogne ship from Harve. He arrived at Ellis Island with $10 and stayed with his cousin.
Anastasia (1892- 1941) and Savvas Koumsoudis (1877-1953)
Savvas and Anastasia had four children in the following order: Magdalena, Mary, Gregory, and Thomas. They lived in a tenement on 228 West 28th Street on the southern edge of Manhattan’s garment district. Magdalena grew up as an English language learner as her parents only spoke Greek. Her brother Tommy tells the story that he and his dad had an ongoing agreement in that he would only speak in English to his dad and he in Greek to him and in that way they learned from each other.
Mary, Gregory, and Magdalena
Mary, Tom, Greg, Magdalena with their father
A Penny a Snap
During the Great Depression, and out of financial necessity, Magdalena dropped out of Woodbridge High School in the 11th grade and joined her mother who apprenticed her in the fine craft of sewing and finishing fur coats. She would accompany her mother to the sweatshop and learn the fur and seamstress trade. Her sister Mary would later join her. The labor movement was alive and well in the 1930s. Their boss hired nonunion workers to save money. The employees were often harassed and feared for their lives but desperately needed the work. Anastasia also took piecework home to make extra money and received a penny for each snap she sewed.
Anastasia working as a furrier seamstress in Manhattan, 1930s
Comsudis Women, Mary, Anastasia, & Magdalena
They would later move to 229 Correja Avenue, Iselin, New Jersey taking the train into the city daily. Anastasia died of cancer on January 20, 1941. When her mother died, Magdalena picked up her mother’s purse and continued to take the train and work long hours in the city. She took care of her siblings and especially helping to raise her youngest brother Tommy along with her mother’s sister, Alexandra and her husband Nick Kalantones. Magdalena bought Tommy his first bike. Magdalena’s father Savvas, was a porter and was 64 years old when his wife passed.
This difficult experience of losing her mother and having to care for her family gave Magdalena the faith and foundation of what the Greeks called philoptimo; an inner honor and respect for self and others and with a sense of duty and support for others without expecting anything in return. She was eternally optimistic and selfless, always had a kind word to say, and was a guiding figure who touched many lives in her community. Magdalena would later provide for her six children and give the support her husband needed to prosper. There was pattern of Greek women as strong partners in helping to make the American dream a reality for their families.
Magdalena and Mary continued working as furrier seamstresses after their mother passed. Although they worked very long hours sewing the silk linings into the fur pelts the men had stretched, they loved the Big Apple. They enjoyed the high fashion and the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. Mary would continue working in the city and would later own her own furrier company. In an interview with her great niece, Mary exclaimed that when she went into the city, “I felt like the sidewalks were dancing!”
The Marriage of Savvas and Magdalena Pantelides
In those days, matchmaking, or proxenia, was quite common for the Greeks. The matchmaking for Savvas and Magdalena was through the Fiakos family and from Steve Sophocles in Baltimore. Steve Sophocles knew Pete Fiakos. Pete worked in the steel yards in New York city and he also knew Magdalena’s father. Steve connected Pete with Savvas. Pete took Savvas to New Jersey to meet Magdalena and her family in Iselin, New Jersey. Savvas tells the story that Pete’s wife Eliso said to him, “Marry this girl and you will never regret it”. After several visits, Magdalena said that “I felt an electricity and my heart said that Savvas was the man for me.”
Savvas and Magdalena were married at the Annunciation Church in Baltimore and with reception at Annapolis Armory on West Street on April 28, 1946. Although they did not know each other, Annapolitan Viola Alvanos was marrying Sotirios Panos on the same day and at the same church, Annunciation in Baltimore, and holding their reception at the same place, Annapolis Guard Armory. Viola graciously moved her times to accommodate the young bride traveling from Iselin New Jersey in her wedding dress. The Panos and Pantelides families became best friends. They became Koumbari when Viola and Sotiros baptized Savvas and Magdalena’s youngest child, Alexandra. This very close relationship and being Koumbari continued through their grandchildren in the baptisms of Andrea Panos by Ted and Anastasia Samaras and Sophia Pantelides by Mike and Evelyn Panos.
Previously to the first Greek church being built in Annapolis, the Greeks went to the Annunciation Greek Church in Baltimore or the Greek priest from Baltimore would go to St. Anne’s on Church Circle in Annapolis to hold services. Eventually, in 1949 and with a great deal of fundraising, the Greeks built their own church, Ss. Constantine and Helen on 4 Constitution Avenue. Melanie Palaigos was the first to be baptized in the new church and Anastasia Pantelides Samaras was the second. Bill and Mary Pavleros were the first to be married in the new church.
Savvas and Magdalena Pantelides Wedding, Annunciation Church, Baltimore 1946
Savvas and Magdalena made Annapolis their new homea place that was new to both of them and where neither of them had family. When Magdalena moved to the then rural Annapolis, it was a huge leap from the city in both culture and a lack of support from her relatives. Nonetheless, when Savvas later sponsored his relatives from Cyprus, Magdalena became a most beloved relative among them all.
The newlyweds first lived at the Synder tourist house on West Street and then at the Finkelstein rooming house on Cathedral Street. But the room they occupied had been promised for the Navy June week so Steve Foundas kindly allowed them to stay at his place on 94 Franklin Street and would accept no rent. Steve also allowed them to stay at his summer home in Bay Ridge. The only condition was that Savvas had to take his shoes off when he arrived home from work at 1am as Steve was a light sleeper. Magdalena made sure the house was kept in good order. In 1947, they bought a furnished home on 18 Randall Street across from Gate One of the United States Naval Academy (USNA). Savvas’ sister Maritsou and her family lived with them there and so did his brother Nick as well as Paul and Helen Nicholas until they could each get established. Many of the mothers would take their children to play at the Naval Academy. Their son Nick Pantelides and friend George Samaras would graduate from USNA as would children from the Jim and Lolainne Brianas and Helen Snyder family. Savvas and Magdalena moved to 227 West Street in 1950. They first rented the West Street home and then later bought it. Magdalena’s father Savvas, came to visit her in Annapolis to help with the children. Magdalena’s father passed in 1953.
Magdalena Pantelides, First Annapolis Home, 18 Randall Street, late 1940s
In 1948, Savvas took Magdalena, who was expecting, and their one-year old son John, to Cyprus so they could meet his family. Their son Nicos was born at the hospital in Nicosia. When asked by her son John why she would travel to Cyprus pregnant and with a one-year old, she replied, “I loved your father and I knew it would make it happy”. Savvas hadn’t seen his family since he left home as a young boy. While they were in Cyprus, their son John became very sick and the doctor told them that if they didn’t take him back to the U.S. he would die. They made plans to return to the U.S. but before leaving, Magdalena went to the Apostolos Andreas Monastery and prayed to Saint Andreas that if their son could live, she promised to name their next son after him. In 1953, she did just that when Andreas (Andre) was born. In 1966, Savvas returned to Cyprus for the last time to visit his family and was accompanied by his son Andre.
Savvas and Magdalena wearing traditional Cypriot clothing, Cyprus 1948
Savvas visiting his Mother Erini, Cyprus, 1966
The Royal Restaurant, Annapolis Maryland
Savvas had a Cypriot friend, Alex Petrides who owned the Royal Restaurant business on 23 West Street in Annapolis. Savvas had loaned Petrides $200 when he went into the business. Although Savvas owned a restaurant in Baltimore, he was looking for another opportunity. Petrides approached Savvas and offered Savvas a position as general manager at the Royal Restaurant. The Royal Restaurant building was owned by Steve Foundas. Petrides and Foundas said Savvas could buy the business and generously allowed him to pay in installments. In 1945, Savvas bought the Royal Restaurant business for $16,000. With this opportunity, Savvas sold his restaurant in Baltimore and came to Annapolis and the Royal soon became his business. Savvas owned the Royal Restaurant business for 31 years (1945-1976).
Savvas Pantelides balancing the books, Royal Restaurant 1940s
Savvas Pantelides, Owner of the Royal Restaurant, 1940s
Magdalena, Savvas, Alexandra Kalantones, and Mary Comsudis in front of Royal Restaurant 1940s
A side story. Savvas Pantelides and John Kallis approached Steve Foundas to help build the first Greek church. In return for this financial help, they offered to name the church in honor of Steve’s brother, Constantine, who had died in America from tuberculosis. Thus, our church is named after Foundas’ brother, Saint Constantine and Helen. Foundas gave both the property on Constitution Avenue and $50,000 to build the first Greek church in Annapolis in 1949. Foundas was perhaps the richest Greek-American in Annapolis as he owned many properties and also a Chrysler/Cadillac dealership where the Hillman City Garage is now located on Conduit Street. Quite a feat for a man with little education but he had a strong work ethic and good business sense. Foundas would later sponsor his sister and her son, Nitsa and Steve Katcheves, to come to America.
For thirty-one years (1945-1976), Savvas tirelessly ran the Royal Restaurant working every day from morning to night with Magdalena joining him to assist as she could during the day with bookkeeping and being an extraordinary hostess while also raising their six children. Magdalena was a tower of strength. She would fill in when needed and when Savvas became disabled in 1967, she stepped in and ran the restaurant until it closed in 1976. Magdalena’s beautiful personality and genuine caring about people was an important part in keeping the customers coming back.
The only time away from work, was when Savvas took his family to Ocean City, Maryland for a week each summer. Savvas was fortunate to have a loyal staff, most of whom worked at the restaurant for decades. Later in life, his kind brother-in-law John Kyriacou would go to the restaurant at 6am and let the cook in while he opened his shoe repair shop located a few doors down the street.
Each of their six children, John, Nick, Anastasia, Andre, Irene, and Alexandra would join in the difficult restaurant work as they reached an age to assist as preteens. They bused and waiting on tables, coordinated schedules and banquets, typed the menus, worked the register, and when of age, served drinks. Andre learned to cook from the very talented Master Chef, Jimmy Walker. Each of the children learned life skills in the restaurant. They learned and lived diversity, collaboration, responsibility, grit, and gratitude, and that a good education is essential to a good life. Savvas used to say, “Whatever you learn you will take forward with you.” He understood all too well the value of building a skillset.
Margie keeping the books on the balcony of the Royal Restaurant, 1950’s
The machine with red cloth draped over it was a mimeograph machine for making daily menus.
Savvas “Sam” and Magdalena “Margie” did not want their children to go into the restaurant business stressing that education was the key to success and a better life. Savvas said, “When you get that diploma, no one can ever take it away from you.” It was a tremendous source of pride for them when all six of their children graduated from college and with Nick graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy. Three of their children became teachers and earned graduate degrees.
The Pantelides children standing in front of the Royal Restaurant, 1957
Andre, Irene, Nick, Anastasia, with John making a salute. Alexandra was born later in 1960.
The Royal Restaurant could seat about 125 people on the main level, 40 in the balcony and about 150 in the basement or Royal Club Room. The Royal became the political, cultural and social hub of Annapolis as it was close to the government centers and a favorite meeting spot for elected officials and power brokers. The Colonial Players, under the direction of Seldon Lacey, first started and held their shows in the Club Room of the Royal. This theatrical group is still operating today in Annapolis.
“The Club Room” Royal Restaurant, 1950’s: Front Row: Margie Pantelides, her sister Mary Michael, Patty Kallis, Goddaughter of Sam and Margie, Elaine Comsudis, Margie’s sister in law. Back row, John Kyriacou, Sam Pantelides, Achilles Pantela, John Michael, and Greg Comsudis of New Jersey
The Royal Restaurant was the first restaurant in Annapolis to voluntarily desegregate. George Phelps, an African American businessman, documented the fact that his service group, the Frontiersmen, would hold their meetings at the Royal. In addition, local African American entrepreneur, Carroll Hynson, wrote an article saying that the only restaurant in Annapolis that would serve him and his parents was the Royal.
Sam and Margie retired in 1976 and sold the restaurant to James Hollan, a young restaurateur. They married three of their children that summer they retired: John to Gloria Fekas; Nick to Dolly Tsatsios; and Irene to Tom Meehan.
Family at Irene and Tom Meehan Wedding, 1976
This small Greek community generated respect in the larger community, resulting in the election of two Greek Mayors, John Apostol and later Mike Pantelides. George Phelps, Carroll Hynson, and other leaders in the African American community supported the 2013 election of Mayor Mike Pantelides, son of John and Gloria Pantelides. The first Greek Mayor was John Apostol, son of Cleo and Mamie Apostol. The Pantelides family retains strong ties with the African American community. It was Sam and Margie Pantelides who knew that discrimination was wrong and took a stand.
Royal Restaurant Victory Party for Mayor John Apostol, first Greek Mayor of Annapolis in 1973. Sam Pantelides at far left behind counter. Also behind counter John Pantelides, Ted Samaras, George Nichols, and Gus Leanos. Father George Papadimitriou is wearing an Apostol hat on the far right.
Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides (2013-2017) with his father John
Greek American Community: Friends and Family
Throughout their time in Annapolis, Savvas and Magdalena made long-lasting friends. The Kallis and Pantelides families were interwoven with Savvas serving as John Kallis’ best man when he married Nora and being Godparents to their first born daughter, Patty and then later with their son Nick and wife Jody Kallis baptizing Athena Samaras. That relationship continued as their children grew up together with the church as the center of their lives. The pattern was repeated with the children of all these immigrant families as the Greek community in Annapolis which was then a small tight-knit group. In those days, Greeks owned most of the restaurants in downtown Annapolis.
Savvas and Magdalena at a church dance, 4 Constitution Avenue
During World War II when Savvas was serving in the Army, he met Tom Siomporas who was also stationed at Fort Meade in Odenton and was also involved in feeding soldiers on bases and on troop trains. This friendship was further strengthened when they both went into the restaurant business in Annapolis and as part of the original founders, served many years in leadership roles at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church. Their children remain very close today. Along with the Kallis, Panos, Siomporas, and Samaras families, Savvas and Magdalena were grateful for their golden friends as they made many new ones.
Pantelides, Panos, and Samaras Families: Children’s Junior High School Graduation, 1962
Tom Siomporas and Savvas Pantelides together at a Church function 1970s. Tom and Sam were part of the team of First Families who built the church and guided it for over 40 plus years.
Sotirios and Vasilia “Viola” Panos with Sam and Margie Pantelides 1980’s
Vasilia “Bessie” and Constantinos “Charlie” Samaras with Sam and Margie Pantelides, 1980s
Top Photo: Mary Comsudis Bauman, Margie Pantelides, Eleni Hajipantela Kacoyianni, Irene Sophocles, and Anna Christoforou. Bottom Photo: “The Golden Girlfriends”: Viola Panos, Margie Pantelides, Lucille Petros, and Bessie Samaras
Once Savvas was established, he sponsored many families from Cyprus in the mid 1950’s, including Mike Piera of Mike’s Crab House fame. Savvas also sponsored his sister Maritsou and her husband John Kyriacou, and countless others. It was his way of helping others on a path he well understood. In turn, Mike Piera went on to sponsor over 60 families from Cyprus. Savvas was a mentor to newcomers including Sotirios Christoforou who became a successful restaurant owner of Chris’ Charcoal Pit with his wife Maroula. Savvas loved Sotos like a son.
Sam and Margie Pantelides with Mike and Katina Piera
Sotirios Christoforou, Owner of Chris’s Charcoal Pit, West Street
Oak Grove Beach 1960’s, Standing: Demetra Keshes, Helen Nicholas, and Maritsa Kyriacou. Kneeling is Margie Pantelides. They would take their children to Sandy Point, Mago Vista, and Bay Ridge Beach to escape the summer heat of Annapolis.
Annapolis Cypriots supporting dance for Cyprus November 11, 1969. Left to right: Anna Nicholas, Florence Nicholas, unidentified, George Nikiforou, Angela Nikiforou, Nora Kallis, John Kallis,
Margie Pantelides, and Sam Pantelides
The Church served as the center of life for these early Greek and Cypriot immigrants. Savvas was a founding father who helped to build the first church on 4 Constitution Avenue and served as a President of the Church and as a Board Member. The Church often brought in big band names, like Tommy Dorsey and Guy Lombardo, when they hosted dances at the Annapolis Armory.
Like all early Greek Cypriot families, the parents insisted their children go to church and attend Sunday School and Greek language school and be active in the Junior and Senior Greek Orthodox Youth of America (GOYA) as well as serve in the altar or choir. Greek-American children learned to speak, write, and recite the Modern Greek language in Greek School. In Sunday School, they learned to recite the Nicene Creed and The Lord’s Prayer in both Greek and English. Pauline Leanos (Griffiths) was a great Sunday School teacher and people marveled how she, Mary Leanos, Liz Alexopoulos, Georgia Nichols, Helen Snyder, and Helen Palaigos and other mothers of that generation taught their students so well. Many of the mothers in the community, including Margie, were involved in all aspects of the church, be it fundraising, Sunday School teachers, choir, and serving as board members of the Philoptohcos, “Friends of the Poor” organization. These women were leaders in the community. These experiences resulted in lasting friendships, being Godparents, and working to eventually build a beautiful church complex in 1996.
Philoptohcos September 1957. Women of the First Families who served their church in many roles from Sunday School Teachers to organizing fundraisers. Back Row, Evangeline Siomporas, Margie Pantelides, Mary Samaras, Christine Samaras. Front Row: Bessie Samaras, Viola Panos, and Helen Palaigos. Margie served as one of the advisors with Evangeline Siomporas from 1957-1959.
The Pantelides house at 227 West Street became a favorite gathering place for families and their children. Savvas owned a restaurant so the refrigerator was always well-stocked. Magdalena loved and cared for the children after school. Birthday parties were big events in the community. Whether it was a card game in the Pantelides attic or getting ready for a Greek dance, the Pantelides house was a popular place to gather. All the families in this tight-knit community contributed to the feeling that we were all one big family. We would call the adults, whether related to us or not, Theo (Uncle) and Thea (Aunt), as if they really were our uncles and aunts; actually we thought they were for years.
Left to right: John, Nick, Irene, Anastasia, Andre, 227 West Street, 1958
Easter April 1958 on front lawn of Pantelides house at 227 West Street
Back Row: Louie Keshes, wife Demetra holding baby Chrystalo, Paul and Helen Nicholas, Margie, John, Sam, and Nick Pantelides. Front row: Andre and Anastasia Pantelides, Florence and Anna Nicholas, and Irene Pantelides
Birthday Party for Andre Pantelides. Back row: John Pantelides, Mike Panos, Nick Pantelides. Middle row: Peter and George Petros, Anastasia “Annie” Pantelides, neighbor Bonnie Green, Melanie Kyriacou. Front row: Effie Palaigos, Eleni Nichols, Andre Pantelides, and Irene Pantelides, 1960
This was even more the case when the Pantelides family moved to 10 Stehle Street in 1966 which was just around the corner from the Church on 4 Constitution Avenue. Savvas was always bringing someone to the house after Church to have Sunday dinner. Magdalena took care of them with a smile and that beautiful tradition of grand hospitality.
On every Name or Feast Day, families would go to the house of the celebrant and party. There were no invitations needed and when it was your name day, many from the community showed up at your house and with all their children.
Pantelides Family, 1950s
Margie Pantelides with John Kyriacou’s father, Kyriacos, holding Alexandra Pantelides, 1962
Cypriot gathering at Mago Vista Beach in Arnold where families from Annapolis and Baltimore would meet for annual event. At the center of the picture are Sam and Margie Pantelides.
Front Yard of Pantelides Family March 1956
John and Sam Pantelides, John Kyriacou, Achilles Pantelas, and Shambelo from London
Paul Sophocles holding son Mike with wife Irene, 1970s. To their right are John and Maritsou Kyriacou
Paul and Irene Sophocles wedding, 1970s: John, Andre, Anastasia, Irene, Alexandra, Margie, Sam, and Nick
Pantelides Family Picture 1970s
Margie’s 70th Birthday Party, 1988
Lucille Petros and Margie Pantelides enjoying Margie’s 80th birthday party
Pirate’s Cove owned by Theano Panos and Bob Platt, 1998
Yiayia Margie with grandchildren Lucas and Costa Samaras and Anastasia Pantelides, 1980s
Pantelides Family Pool Party, 1980s
Gathering at Yiayia’s Home, 10 Stehle Street 1990s
Margie was able to dance at the weddings of two of her grandchildren: Costa Samaras who married Gabriella Sykora and Lucas Samaras who married Amelia Taylor.
Margie dancing at her grandson’s wedding: Costa Samaras and Gabriella Sykora, 2003
Margie with family at Lucas and Amelia Samaras wedding, 2005
90th Birthday party, Margie with children John, Irene, Andre, Anastasia, Alexandra, and Nick, 2008
Margie’s 90th Birthday Party with her Grandchildren, 2008
Great Yiayia Margie with Rohan and Lucia Sykora Samaras 2008
Margie’s Granddaughter Alexandra Pantelides and Great Grandson Teo Samaras, 2009
In 2003, Margie moved from the Stehle Street home and built a new home at 1612 Margret Avenue where she lived with her daughter Alexis.
Margie with Family, Margret Avenue, 2008
Margie with her daughter Alexandra, Margret Avenue, 2006
Savvas was born March 1, 1909 and died September 28, 1981of ALS. He also had Arteriosclerosis. He was able to enjoy four of his grandchildren before he passed: Constantinos (Costa) and Lucas Samaras; Gregory Pantelides; and Anastasia Pantelides. In his last dying words to the family, Savvas asked that his children love and honor each other and especially his wife- their mother, to keep our good name, and to never let it die.
Magdalena was born July 16, 1918 and died August 7, 2009 of cardiorespiratory failure. She was 91 and was living independently. She died at her home but was resuscitated and became conscious to say goodbye to her entire family at the hospital. When Magdalena passed, she had 15 grandchildren: Gregory and Michael Pantelides; Anastasia, Christa, Sophia, and Savvas Pantelides; Costa, Lucas, and Athena Samaras; Magdalene, Cia, Savvas, and Alexandra Pantelides; and Nicole and Evan Meehan. At the time of her passing, Magdalena also had three great grandchildren: Rohan and Lucia who are the children of Costa Samaras and Gabriella Sykora and Theodore (Teo) who is the son of Lucas and Amelia Samaras.
After the passing of Magdalena, and at the time of this writing, there have been more grandchildren and marriages: Susan (Susie) and Eli Samaras, the children of Lucas and Amelia Samaras, were born. Sophia Pantelides married Jake Deane; Athena Samaras married Alex Bibbey, Mike Pantelides married Alexandra DeCesaris, and Christa Pantelides married Steve Clagett. Mike and Alexandra have a son named Luca John, and Christa and Steve have a daughter named Nicoletta Margo. Savvas and Magdalena’s son Nick, born September 26, 1948, passed away from cancer on December 7, 2018.
As children of one of the First Greek American Families in Annapolis, we are now in our 60s and 70s. We have fond memories of growing up in the Greek community and with the church as our center. Our parents had great faith in God and believed in putting God first. They helped instill in us the values that are foundational in our lives including the importance of faith, hard work, education, friends and family, and service to others. We are proud of our contributions to the church and to the community but they will never measure up to what our parents and grandparents accomplished. We are especially appreciative of the opportunity that America gave our grandparents and parents and consequently to subsequent generations. They were the fortunate immigrants who were able to embrace and realize the American Dream.
Written: December 22, 2020, John Savvas Pantelides and Anastasia Pantelides Samaras
With gratitude to Irene Panayi for her contributions to the early Haji Pantela history and to all who are part of this story.
Irene Panayi with Irene Sophocles demonstrating making a Cypriot pastry at a Greek festival