2018 Scholarship Recipient

Marek James Michael Pearse

My Family’s History on Kythera

     My family’s history on Kythera is most recently connected to my great-grandfather (pro papou), Dimitrios Simos. He was the oldest of seven children born to Yianni and Zoe (Andronico) Simos. He was born and raised in the small village of Kousounari, which is part of Logothetianika. His parents (and their family before them) most likely worked as farmers before he and all of his siblings left and immigrated to the United States. His parents stayed behind and continued to live in Greece for the rest of their lives. In fact, the house that they lived in is still standing in Kousounari.

      My great-grandfather and his brothers arrived in the U.S. in the early 1900s (his one sister met and married a fellow Kytherian and did not immigrate until the 1920s). Dimitrios worked in banking in New York City before moving to San Francisco. Along with his brothers Chris and AJ, he operated a restaurant on Fillmore Street in San Francisco. He also met and became good friends with other Kytherians, with whom he formed a close-knit community and would socialize with often, including having picnics together in Golden Gate Park. 

      In 1915, Dimitrios met his wife, Iasmia, who was from Asia Minor by way of Thessaloniki. They married in 1916, with many Kytherians in attendance. A year later, in 1917 my yiayia Zoe, was born, followed by John in 1918, Despina (Tess) in 1920, Evelyn in 1925 and Adam (Steve) in 1927. 

     Dimitrios’s brothers had made their way to Bakersfield due to opportunities with the railroad, and he relocated his family there, as well, in 1921. He eventually opened up the Rex Sweet Shop, a family run business. Of all the Simos children that moved to the United States, only one of them, Nick, returned to live on Kythera, although Pete later donated the main water system for the Monastery Panagia Myrtidiotissa. Dimitrios always stayed in touch with Nick as well as the rest of his relatives that continued to live on Kythera. 

     It would be some time, however, before any of Dimitrios’s children visited Kythera. My yiayia Zoe met her husband, my papou, James, at a dance at an air force base is Shafter, CA during World War II. They had two sons together - John born in 1946 and Mark, my father, born in 1950. They briefly moved back to San Francisco in the early 1950s, before settling down back in Bakersfield. For all her life, Zoe dreamed of visiting the island where her family originated from and finally was able to do so in 1983 with her husband. Her sister Evelyn also traveled to Kythera a couple times with her husband, Emile. In addition to this, my nouna, Vicki Spanos, who is the granddaughter of Dimitrios’s brother Theodores, has made several trips back as well. 

     In 2015, my mother, Mariane, and my sister, Megan, were able to finally visit Kythera and meet our relatives that are still living there in person. I have not been able to visit yet but it remains a dream of mine to one day visit the place from which part of my family originated. While my great grandfather and his siblings moved to a faraway country for a better life and to ultimately start their families, the relatives that stayed behind in Kythera maintained family traditions that had been established long ago, traditions and memories that continue to be held by our family to this day.  

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Scholarship Chairman Melissa Neofes-Mischak presenting the scholarship to Marek.

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