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Out of the Balkans


Helene Mavis (Nitsa) married Stanton Hugh Avitabile on 1 September 1956 while he was still a medical student. They had five children: Lynn, Scott, Keith, Bruce and Gregg. Helene lived the life of a wife, mother and community activist in Glastonbury Connecticut until April of 1978, when she suffered a brain hemorrhage and died at the age of 47. She is interred at the Coburn Cemetery in the small town of Sherman in western Connecticut.

Jason married Panayota Gianopoulos, Bette, on 3 September 1960, in California. They have two daughters, Demetra and Reveka Evangelia.

Lily lived to hold in her arms and bless all seven of her grandchildren. She and Jimmy left the brownstone on Ovington Avenue, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn in 1959. They moved to a newly built home in Demarest, New Jersey, only a few miles from Dr. DeTata and his family who lived in Closter, New Jersey.

Lily never fully reconciled herself to her move from Brooklyn. She died on 4 February 1967 at the age of sixty-two, succumbing after a second stroke; the result of the high blood pressure that plagued her throughout her life. Lily's internment at the Englewood Cemetery, Englewood, New Jersey was on 8 February 1967, after one of the most severe blizzards in New York City's recorded history. For the two days that her body was at the funeral home, snow drifts across the avenues in New York City were two and three feet high. Nonetheless, on each of two nights, with temperatures falling to ten below zero, more than one hundred visitors paid their respects, and more than one hundred attended her funeral service.

In 1968, seeking to renew himself, Jimmy returned to Greece for the first time, to Athens, to Kastoria and to his village of Mavrovo. In 1916, it had taken over thirty days including two weeks in a ship's steerage for him to reach New York City from his village. Fifty-two years later the trip from his home in New Jersey to his village lasted but eighteen hours. Almost every summer thereafter he flew to Athens and then to Kastoria where he drew strength from his homeland, and from visiting friends and relatives. After each visit to Greece, he said: "It gives me a lift!" One summer he had the joy of having Helene and his granddaughter, Lynn, accompany him.

In 1985 Bette, Reveka and I joined Dad on a three week driving tour that included Attica, Thessaly, Macedonia, Epirus, Acarnania, Corfu, and the Peloponnesos. We met for the first time members of the Mavrovitis family from Egypt including Myrto and Mischou Mavrovitis, Rena Mavrovitis, and their families; visited Kastoria and our family there; and were introduced to Bette's aunt and cousins in the village of Menolon, outside of the city of Tripolis. Her aunt, Thea Christitsa, and cousins Georgia and George Vasilopoulos, hosted a wonderful dinner for us in a small summer cottage in the middle of their farmland. Everything we ate was from their land, including the wheat in the bread that had been baked in an outdoor oven that morning.

Jimmy flew to California at least once each year to visit Jason, Bette, and his granddaughters, Demetra and Reveka. And he frequently drove to Connecticut to see his son-in-law, Stan and his grandchildren.

Jimmy died on 8 February 1989, at the age of eighty-eight. He had retired at sixty-five to be with Lily. After her passing he went back to work half time, taking pleasure in his contacts in the market, and from his frequent visits to see his nephews, Thanasi and Nick Mavrovitis, who he regarded almost as sons. The money he earned made travel possible, and for the first time in his life he was able to put some savings aside.

In the end, Jimmy joined the love of his life, Lily. Their grave is at the Brookside Cemetery, 425 Engle Street, Englewood, New Jersey on the right hand side of the east side circle.

Papou lived a long life, surviving Adela by almost thirty years. He died in a nursing home in Little Falls, New York in 1990, having lived there for more than ten years, close to his family from Italy. He was one hundred years of age.

Jason and his wife, Bette, live in Sonoma, California.

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