History of Our Parish PDF Print
History of Our Parish
Celebrating the First Divine Liturgy
Building the First Church
Growth In The Church Community
World War II Involvement and Post War Growth
Building the Hellenic Center
Building the Present Church on South Grande Avenue
Growth in the New Church, Tragedy, and Recovery
The 80s and 90s
List of Chanters, Choir Director, Organists, and Sunday School Directors
List of Parish Council Presidents
List of Parish Priests
Closing Remarks
All Pages

NOTE: The following is a narrative of our Community's History as written by Zinas Mavodones, a life long member of our community. This history was written in 2007 to commemorate our Church's Consecration which took place in the same year. We hope you enjoy our story and the historical pictures that are included within it. God Bless You All.

With this history we are celebrating the Consecration of our Church on Grand Avenue in Poughkeepsie, New York and the 84th year of the founding of the Kimisis Tis Theotokou Community. Our church is unique for us as parishioners, as it is intertwined with our lives. Although it was organized in 1923, it just did not spring into existence but had its beginnings amongst individuals who came here to Poughkeepsie in the early 1900’s.

They came here from Greece, crossing the Atlantic Ocean to a new country. They were very young, did not know the language, and did not have any special business skills. They all were ambitious and independent of mind.

As youths and young men they were able to learn the language and the new business skills to earn their living. After working for others, they stepped out on their own and soon established their small and moderate commercial businesses.

The earliest ones came here to Poughkeepsie in the early 1900’s. The first on record was Vasilios Mentavlos, who obtained a horse and wagon and became a familiar fruit merchant. The Vassilliw brothers established a fruit, ice cream, and candy shop. Then in 1903, brothers George and Stephen Antonakos arrived and soon established the Boston Candy Kitchen in partnership with Artemis Papastrat.

Just prior to World War I more Greeks found their way to the Mid-Hudson area and Poughkeepsie. These newcomers soon met their native Greek countrymen living and working in Peekskill, Beacon, Newburgh, Kingston and Saugerties. The largest numbers were in the Poughkeepsie and Newburgh areas. As an example, the late John Christakos came here in 1916 as a 15-year-old youth. Another example was Stelios Frangk who was young enough to serve in the U.S. Army during World War I.

Main Street During World War I

Today we refer to them as Greeks, but they referred to themselves as Hellenes (Ελληνες), sons of Hellas, which is the Greek name of Greece. They would meet other countrymen in the region socially as well as in business. The one mainstay that they all had and kept during these early years was their religious heritage and faith. When they crossed the ocean they came with their few belongings but always with a religious Icon from their home, not only as a keepsake, but also as a firm reminder that prayer and faith were also required as they set out on a new adventure in life. They would undoubtedly meet socially to celebrate the religious holidays as well as they could, in their small homes. If they wished to attend church services it meant a long trip to either Yonkers or New York City during the years of 1911 to 1920. Many of those early parishioners had their marriage and baptismal sacraments celebrated in those two cities.

During those years, by the late 1920’s, there were more businesses operated by Greeks. These were familiar names in those days but today not too many recall them. It is worthwhile to remember them because later on they were the financial strength that allowed them to form a Church Community. They were: Matsukas Market; Gianoudas Market; Giannoulas Market; Chaganos Market; Mentavlos Fruits; Vasilios Maroulis Market; Antonakos & Papastrat’s Boston Candy Kitchen; Vassilliw Ice Cream & Candy; Biltmore Restaurant (Steve Pappas & George Verven); Papastrat Commercial Ice Cream Store; Court Café, now called Alex’s (Alex Pappas); Texas Lunch (Tom Pappas); Kustas & Chamberas, wholesalers of confections and tobacco products (Louis G. Kustas, George Kustas Sr., Peter Chamberas Sr.). It was during 1917 that the Greek businessmen saw the value of meeting and sharing information and experiences in their commercial enterprises. They formed the Greek Business Mens’ Club that met in downtown Poughkeepsie, first on Main St. and later on Garden St. There they discussed not only their business concerns but also their social and religious concerns. Their Secretary was George Antonakos. This group continued until 1926. Thus the Greeks were now a commercial presence in Poughkeepsie. There were also other firms in the other cities and towns in the area, namely restaurants, fruit markets, and candy manufacturers. One can recall an example in Beacon, the Alps Candy Store, of the Charkalis brothers. The Alps Candy Stores are still in operation today.

The Greeks of the community kept their religious traditions centered in their homes, since they did not have a local Church. In addition to the major religious holidays, there were also saints’ name days and anniversaries that were celebrated. Greeks were often named after a family relative, which was very often the name of a saint. Now with the increase of Greek families, they saw the need to rent a hall to accommodate their religious celebrations.

In 1921 & 1922 members began to meet to see how they could not only have their celebrations, but also celebrate the Divine Liturgy here in Poughkeepsie. The first meeting took place in the Papastrat Ice Cream Store on the southeast corner of Main and Hamilton St., when the store was closed for business. There were enough present to have another meeting in the spring of 1923 and to name people to an official committee. They then elected their representative Board: Pres. Artemis G. Papastrat, Vice Pres. John B. Vassilliw, Treas. Louis G. Kustas, and Sec. Stephen E. Antonakos. Trustees were Stephen Pappas and John Theodoropoulos.

First Board of Trustees - 1924

In their discussions and meetings, they knew they had the financial ability to obtain a place for Church services. For the present, they sought out a place that was near their homes and businesses. Their businesses were located mainly between Hamilton St. and Market St. and their homes were in that surrounding area. A church chapel on South Cherry St., which met these needs, was located. They did not look for a more distant site because few if any had automobiles. Contact was established with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in New York. Thus began the process of incorporation with the Archdiocese. The Board met with the members of the community and Mr. Louis G. Kustas presented the name of Kimisis Tis Theotokou as the new name of the parish. When this took place the Archdiocese sent Rev. Agathangelos Petropoulos, their first priest. The parish would assume the travel and pay of the new parish priest. The first Treasurer, Louis G. Kustas, records that as of October 8, 1923 $270.00 had been raised for the church community and was deposited in the bank. On Sunday October 14, 1923 the first Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the South Cherry St. chapel.

The chapel was rented on a monthly basis so that services took place each Sunday as well as special church holidays and Sacraments during the week. Not only residents of Poughkeepsie attended but also others came from the Mid-Hudson area. At their previous meetings, some funds had been raised to purchase the required liturgical church items that would be used in the rented chapel. They also began to deposit the donations made during church services and at other meetings, in their local bank.

They now began to look forward in having their own regular church building someday. The Board and others began to search what churches might be available for purchase. They located one large, tall brick church near the center of the city, the Dutch Reformed Church, on the northeast corner of Mill and Catherine Sts; it was for sale. This was close to their homes and businesses. It was beautifully appointed and finished with polished mahogany woodwork. Mr. Peter Chamberas, Sr. told me that the Reformed Church parish was moving to the edge of the city on upper Hooker Ave. He said they decided not to purchase it because there were only a dozen families in the Kimisis community and they felt they would be lost inside this huge building. It even had a huge hall and a parish house. Cost must have also been considered, as the members were all shrewd businessmen.

They met again and noted that many churches were gradually moving to the outer edges of the city on Hooker Ave. Mr. Chamberas said that they had serious meetings and it was almost a split decision to remain in the city center. They decided that the new church should not be located at a distant site. A central city site was to be the location.

They searched and finally found an apartment building within the center of Poughkeepsie. They purchased this property as the future site for a new church intending to demolish the apartment and build. But they soon realized that it would be too costly to demolish. They sold the apartment and purchased the empty lot next to it, in order to build the new church.

Louis G. Kustas was a member of the Triune Masonic Lodge 266 in Poughkeepsie. One of his lodge brothers, Carpenter DuBois, was an architect. Apparently, they must have talked about building a new church in Poughkeepsie. An architectural historian, about 15 years ago, pointed out that Mr. DuBois gave the Greek community a free set of plans for their church. The plans had been used before, for another church in Lancaster, Pa. So it had to be that Mr. Dubois gave the plans to his lodge brother Mr. Louis G. Kustas.

The community now incorporated themselves in 1924, with New York State, as the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church of Poughkeepsie, NY. The name Assumption stayed with the community until 1967 when it became Kimisis Tis Theotokou. They previously used the name Assumption because that is the common name that was known by those not of the Orthodox Church. August 15th is the titular nameday of our church community. It is also a church holiday of the Roman Catholic and High Episcopalian churches where it known as The Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Our Kimisis holiday goes back to the early days of Christianity. The Assumption is a holiday of the Roman Church that was dogmatized in 1950 and it has a different theology from the Orthodox Church.

One of the first picnics held by our community in 1925

While the community was planning for the new church, services were held on Sundays and sometimes on a daily basis at the South Cherry St chapel. I inherited a record book of the Church that belonged to my father in-law, Louis G. Kustas, the first Treasurer. It is fascinating to read those early notations that show how active they were in their church work. They were accurate, fastidious and punctual. It was not all work and no play. His book indicates their expenses for picnics and holiday celebrations along with their church services. Since they did not have an organized choir for their liturgical services, one of the Board members, Stephen Antonakos, became the Church’s first chanter in 1923. The congregation would usually sing along with the chanter since all knew the hymns and responses. The chanter acted as an informal musical leader.

Now that they had the site and the plans for the new Church, they saw that they had to make an alteration. They examined their finances and saw that they would not have enough funds to build according to the blueprints. Therefore, they shortened the length of the church by 30 feet. They also strengthened the tower sites in hope to later place two small belfries on the front of the building, but this did not materialize. On July 16, 1924 the church members with Rev. Petropoulos officiating, held the groundbreaking ceremony. Meanwhile services regularly continued at South Cherry St chapel.

One can imagine what enthusiasm the members felt as they watched the progress of this building! Soon they would not have to rent the chapel. Now they would have a large spacious church and meeting hall of their own, compared to where they had been before. The work on the church continued through the fall. A Church service was last held at the chapel on December 21, 1924. They then moved the folding chairs and all the liturgical items into the new church. Several humorous items were noted in their expense book on November 29th: “move ten tons of coal to the church and buy 40lbs of candle string”. In those days they made their church candles by hand dipping and molds. This was a skill of the ladies of the Proodos Society. On December 24th they celebrated the first Divine Liturgy at the new Church. The members of the Church Community had given themselves a Christmas present that was certainly heart moving to young and old. It was truly Christmas Day! They chose Christmas Day for their first Liturgy since it was on this day in Constantinople, when the first Liturgy was celebrated in the then new Great Cathedral of Haghia Sophia or, as the world knows it, Santa Sophia. To them the church in Poughkeepsie, NY was a similar cathedral. The next Sunday after the Liturgy they had the ceremony on installing the cornerstone. That cornerstone is now located in the upper hall of the Sunday school wing of the Church on Grand Avenue.

1939 Picture of Parishioners on Academy Street1935 Choir

With the new Church opening they began to develop a regular Choir. The Pastor Rev. Petropoulos and the new Chanter Vasilios Leontaras taught the youth of the church the hymns and responses of the liturgy. Mr. Leontaras also undertook some Sunday school instruction. Soon some of the ladies helped him as Sunday school teachers for the youth of the community. With the new church, there was a new enthusiasm for those activities that the parishioners had desired. During the early days of 1925, Rev. Petropoulos was assigned to nearby Newburgh and Rev. Peter Manolides replaced him. This was an active period of organization. The ladies of the community organized a ladies society known as “Proodos”, which means progress. This later became known as the Philoptochos Society in 1945. There were 24 charter members. They helped the Trustees of the church by sponsoring numerous picnics, nameday celebrations and dinners. They also traveled around the Mid-Hudson area raising funds from parishioners and commercial establishments. During 1927, the men of the community established Poughkeepsie Chapter #158 of AHEPA. The letters stand for American, Hellenic, Educational and Progressive Association. They were connected with the national Order of Ahepa. There were about 30 charter members. Both the Ahepa Chapter and the ladies Proodos Society met in the church hall. They also performed amateur theatre plays in the Greek language. The participants were all members of the community - young and old. Some plays were dramatic stories and others were humorous tales. The church Hall in this instance was not large enough for these plays so they rented space in the large Masonic Hall, 3 blocks away from the church. This hall had a stage, seating, curtains and a small kitchen for post-program refreshments. People of Greek background from nearby cities and towns attended these plays. These programs were well received and became regular annual events. Some of the parishioners had musical talent and were organized under the leadership of Peter Antonakos into a small orchestra to entertain members of the community at plays and dances. The other members of the musical troupe were: Maria Kavour Charinos, Procopis Labrinos and Calliope Aposporos. Shortly thereafter, Litsa Antonakos, George Pappas, Steven Verven, George L. Kustas, Bill G. Kustas, Stemi Gorman and Nick L. Kustas joined the group.

First Picnic of Poughkeepsie (1925)Play at Masonic Hall (1932)

During the days of the latter 20’s and early 30’s, Poughkeepsie saw new business firms owned by Greek proprietors. These new proprietors were also members of the Kimisis community. Some were: K & M Banana Wholesalers (Anthony Kalliche and Louis Maroulis), Peters Sweet Shop (operated by Peter Labrinos) and French Pastry Shop (Stelios Frangk and John Christakos). The business firms were now a solid part of the greater Poughkeepsie community as illustrated by the fact that Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the U.S. President, often did holiday shopping at Kustas & Chamberas for specialty tobacco & candy gift boxes. She also was a regular customer at the French Pastry Shop for specialties she required for various occasions at the President’s home in Hyde Park, NY. In fact she was on a first name basis with Mr. Frangk. Some other well known businesses were: John Christakos’ Daily Treat, Jim Marker and Harry Kavour of The Chili House, Gus Bliziotis’ Liberty Restaurant, Nicholas Boloukas’ Candy Kitchen, Tom Pappas’ Texas Lunch & Bakery and E. Krimezis & D. Andreakos’ White Tile Lunch. All of these businesses enthusiastically provided financial help for their Church.

First Orchestra of Parishioners playing at the Church Hall on Academy Street (1930)French Pastry Shop on Main Street in Poughkeepsie (Owner was Stelios Frangk)

Over the years, the Greek Business Men's Club had helped to develop the new Church Community in addition to their own commercial enterprises. Now that a church was built, the Men’s Business Club ended their organization in 1926. The church now became the center of their combined efforts.

This was a period of growth for the community. Greek language classes were organized and taught beginning in 1930, with a School Board initially led by Louis G. Kustas. Another group was organized as the Pan Arcadian Society since many church members were from the region of Greece known as Arcadia. The Hellenic Society was organized with Louis Maroulis as President. Their aim was to make known the ideals and heritage of Greece. Others also organized the Hermes Society for youth activities in the community and another group began by celebrating St. George’s Day, for all those whose name was George. There were about 25 Georges in the community at these annual spring celebrations, which lasted until 1955.

All of the church related groups held their events with the idea of raising funds to complete the payment of the Church. This was finally accomplished in 1936, the same year that Reverend Vasilios Vryniotis came to the Parish. They were completely debt free! In 1938 the Proodos Society purchased a house next to the Church as a parish house to accommodate the Chanter and the Parish Priest. Proodos assumed the responsibility of paying for the mortgage of $18,000.00.

April 30, 1939 Church Hall at Academy Street. Georges Celebration for their nameday.HBH (Hebe) Organization Picture taken May 1950.  Organization started in 1942.

On November 11, 1938 the young ladies of the community formed a Maids of Athens group that was associated with the Ahepa family. They were known as the Maids of Athens, Hebe Chapter #15. As years passed, they did not keep their affiliation with the Ahepa organization but retained the name of Hebe, later to be well known in the church and Poughkeepsie social life as the HBH sorority. They engaged in many various social, charitable and fund raising events for the Church and the Poughkeepsie area.

In 1939 the Board obtained the services of Sofronios Afentakis and his son. They were well known as excellent iconographers throughout the Greek Church In the United States, having decorated over 40 churches at that time. They remained here for three months during the summer of 1939. They completed the large icons on the Iconostasion (icon screen), 12 small icons over the icon s creen, 14 large wall icons on either side of the nave, a ceiling icon of Christ, the 4 Evangelists and a wall icon of the Holy Trinity in the choir loft. Once the icons were completed, a Gala dinner was held in the hall with appropriate speeches. Mr. Stelios Frangk supplied 100 roasted chickens for the participants and the Proodos Society took care of the other delicious items at all the tables.

1939 ChoirCollege Hill Park ('First Hellenic Center') Family Picnics, Sunday School Picnics and other events took place here in the 1930s and 1940s.

It was during the late 1930’s and 1940’s that the Greek Language School and the Sunday School classes held their memorable annual picnics on College Hill Park in the City of Poughkeepsie at the open stone pavilion that resembled the ancient Parthenon in Athens, Greece.

Rev. Dr. Joachim Malachias arrived here in 1939 until 1942. It was at this time World War 2 broke out and involved not only the United States but also Greece, where many were born. The community stepped forward to participate in Red Cross, USO and the Greek War Relief programs. The ladies knitted sweaters and the men raised money and planned social events to help with the funds needed for these programs. The Rev. Malachias was often quoted in local newspapers about the War situation in Greece. In World War I, he had served in the Greek Navy. As an interesting note Rev. Malachias was just about 5’5” in height but he was the acknowledged handball champion of Poughkeepsie! During these years the six central main icons on the iconostasion (icon screen) were gilded and covered with silver. The parishioners gave the funds for this project.

During these War years the community organized a Greek Folk Dance group that was composed of the young ladies dressed in full Greek costumes. They performed often at various social events to help in the fundraising of patriotic programs that the community participated in. It was in 1942 that Archbishop Athenagoras, later to become Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, visited us for a celebrated Liturgy.

Rev. Nicholas Maximos arrived here from 1942 to 1945. It was during this time when many of the young men of the community were called to serve in the Army, Navy and Air Force. When the young men returned as veterans, many went to college to continue studies that would prepare them for their business and professional lives. The community suffered the loss of two young men in the War: Pfc Stylianos Theodoropoulos and Pfc Thomas Aposporos.

On a lighter note the community now held an Annual Greek Festival in the Church Hall to raise funds from their handiworks, foods and celebrated pastries. They continued to have their picnics for enjoyment and fundraising in order to celebrate after a busy year of work and community services.

Rally for U.S.O War Fund Campaigns, held on Theodore Sterling Farm on Vassar Road on Sunday May 10, 1942.  Rally was given by Americans of Greek Descent.  Archbishop Athenagoras is also present in this event.Dance Group Performance at Vassar College (1945).

Rev. John Zanetos was assigned here from 1945 till 1949. He is remembered as a tireless worker with the youth as well as the adults. He improved the Sunday School Program, the Church Choir and the Greek Language School. He also began the program of having a monthly church bulletin go out to all the parishioners in Greek & English. The Church celebrated its 25th Anniversary by having the Church consecrated by Bishop Germanos of Nysis on July 1949. An overflow crowd held a grand dinner in the well-utilized hall after the Consecration services. It was noted in the speeches that the community would need a much larger meeting hall.

Rev. Nicholas Vamvakos was here with us from 1949 to 1950. He was followed by Rev. Athanasios Chamberas who came here from Altoona Pa. It was in 1951 that the Daughters of Penelope were organized and chartered. The year of 1952 was a highpoint as the local Ahepa Chapter not only celebrated its 25th Anniversary but also hosted the New York State Ahepa Convention in Poughkeepsie. The church hall, of course, was too small so the events took place at the Campbell Hotel. The delegates attended the Liturgy at the Church nearby. One might say that the Poughkeepsie community had reason to be proud of its Kimisis Church community.

Welcoming Archbishop Athenagoras in Poughkeepsie in 1939.

First Greek Bazaar at the Academy Street Church held on November 19471949 Sunday School of Academy Street Church

1954 brought another milestone for the Church. It celebrated its 30th Anniversary. Archbishop of North America, Michael, came here to preside over the Liturgy and the banquet, which took place in the church hall. It was an especially festive event because all of the original Trustees were able to attend and enjoy the results of the work they had done over the years. Rev. Petropoulos, the first priest of the parish also attended. It became even more apparent, at this event, that a larger church hall as well as a larger church would be required for the community in the future.

At this time there was a very large segment of land between South Grand Avenue and Park Avenue that had been used for veterans’ housing, which was vacant and on the real estate market. Most of it had been purchased by the Jewish Community in hope of building new synagogues and centers. The church board was looking to purchase some of this land and they obtained some parcels. Mr. Anthony Kalliche and Mr. Maroulis’ widow owned a sizeable portion of this area. They knew of the community’s desire to build a new Center and a new Church. The church board completed transactions with the Kalliche and Maroulis families for this additional property. Then in 1955 Mr. Anthony Kalliche and Mrs. Louis Maroulis and family donated the deeds for the land to the Church Community for a Hellenic Center and a Church.

Daughters of Penelope (Started 1951)Order of AHEPA (1952)

At a 1957 general meeting of the community a heated discussion ensued as to what should be built first, a Center or a Church. Both sides presented their arguments. Some said the Center would supply funds to help build a new Church from its operations. The opposite group said that the Church, being built first, would give the enthusiasm for a future Center. They said the Founders felt that a Church should be first and a Center next. The votes were taken. The community would build a Hellenic center first and then a church. A small committee was then organized to investigate the feasibility of erecting a Center.

The Church board enlarged the committee to include more members from the community. They formulated plans for raising funds and soon obtained the services of Cook & Co., a local architectural firm to draw up plans. The Building Fund Committee members went out into the community, making house and business calls, soliciting and collecting pledges for the building fund. Each month the committee mailed out progress reports. Other groups undertook fund raising events such as a buffet dinner-dance, hosted by HBH and the Annual picnic of Philoptochos.

The enthusiasm continued as illustrated by the Kalliche family who donated a new automobile to be raffled off for the Center in September 1958. In that same year, the Choir went out Caroling to raise money for the cornerstone, a New Year’s Party was held at the Church Hall, HBH held a Spring Fashion Show and the Church held a picnic as a fundraiser. The Choir went out Caroling again, during the 1959 holidays.

His Eminence Archbishop Michael during his visitation to Kimisis on the 30th Anniversary of the church on Academy Street.  With His Eminence are Reverend Agathangelos Petropoulos, first pastor of the church (left of Archbishop) to the right of the Archbishop are Reverent Neophitos (archdeacon). Reverent Athanasios Chamberas, pastor of the church, and Stephen J. Verven, president of the board of Trustees.35th Anniversary of the Church in Poughkeepsie.  The original surviving members (1959).

Finally, in the spring of 1960 a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the site of the Center. Original Founding members present were Peter Chamberas Sr., Steve Pappas and John Theodoropoulos. Church Board President William G. Kustas and Rev. Athanasios Chamberas officiated the ceremony. There were many local and civic dignitaries present. The Center was rapidly completed. It had a lounge, an office, a large 300-seat capacity hall, a second floor meeting room and a complete kitchen. Finally the Hellenic Center had its first affair with a Gala New Years Eve Party in 1961. It was very beautifully and professionally decorated by Mr. Peter Aposporos who was our own well-known painter and artist. It was a memorable evening of dining, dance and music.

We should note that, during February 1961, the Church served as a host for the famous “Weeping Icon” from Hempstead, NY. Over 1000 people came from the entire Poughkeepsie community to pray at the Church during that week.

1960 Ground Breaking Ceremony at South Grand Avenue for the Hellenic CenterHellenic Center (1961)

The Center soon lived up to its expectations. The building fund committee now became the Hellenic Center Committee. It hosted the Kimisis Church events. The Committee made sure that it was soon rented to benefit the Church and pay for the balance of the Center building costs. The greater Poughkeepsie community adopted the Center. It served the region’s social, political and charitable activities on a regular basis. It thus became the social center of the Poughkeepsie area. The HBH Sorority, Philoptochos, the Ahepans and the Greek Language School all held their meetings there on a regular basis. The General meetings of the Church were also held there as well. Now there was hope that with this new enthusiasm the Center would spark the inspiration of soon having a new Church erected near the Center. At various events held at the Center, the senior ladies of Philoptochos served as “coat checking girls” during late evening hours, raising sizeable amounts of funds for the Church.

It should be noted that for over 35 years many of our parishioners traveled to Kimisis for their Church services from the Kingston, NY area. During the late ‘50s their numbers increased. They now wished to have their own Church in Kingston. Under the leadership of the Larios family they organized a new community, raised funds, and built a church named St. George in the 1960s. Thus, Kimisis now had a new sister church community.

Caryatids Float at a Poughkeepsie Parade in 1963.  Those present from left to right are Marion Pechewlys, Karen Drivas, Olga Chamberas, Esther Pericles, and Zoe Dourdis1968 Parish Council

1962 was another landmark for the community. The Poughkeepsie Ahepa Chapter celebrated its 35th Anniversary by hosting the New York State Ahepa Convention at the Hellenic Center and neighboring hotels. The Poughkeepsie Chapter of the Daughters of Penelope served as co-hosts as they had done in 1949. It was a memorable event. All present wished that since the community had a fine Center, it should one day soon have a beautiful new Church.

In 1963 Rev. A. Chamberas left the community and was replaced by Rev. Athanasios Rizos from Worcester, Mass. Rev. Rizos instituted Bible studies for the community, a Goya Chapter for the youth and revitalized the Sunday school. The Greek Language School was given greater attention by the Trustees and a graduate of St. Basil’s Academy, Anna Kotiadou, was obtained to serve as the teacher. She also helped with the clerical work of the church. Since the 1930’s the Greek School had been taught at the church on Academy St. and now it was taught at the Hellenic Center.

Rev. Rizos had served in Worcester, Mass. where he oversaw the building of a large, new and impressive church. He and the Trustees discussed his experiences there and the many programs that he had helped initiate. He noted that to build a church, it would require organization and a lot of hard work by the community. The Trustees knew that a new church would be built but not exactly when. The catalyst was next to the existing church property bordered by South Grand Avenue, Park Avenue, and Hooker Avenue.

Fr. Nick Soteropoulos blessing the cornerstone in 19671968 Building Fund Committee

The private Poughkeepsie Day School was located on the land next to the Center and the proposed church site. The School had decided to sell its large property and move to a Vassar College site. The City YMCA initially wanted to purchase the site and move there from the city center. They changed their mind and decided to move and build a new facility nearby in Eastman Park.

The Trustees then visited the site with the idea of purchasing the large School building and converting it into a temporary Church until a permanent one would be built. If they obtained the land it would almost double the size of what we owned. The asking price was over $100,000. We could not afford that amount. The Trustees sought to buy 2/3rds of the land. They located an automotive service corporation and a large commercial ice cream corporation that would buy the other 1/3. They would face Hooker Ave. away from the proposed church site. There was also another group who wished to purchase the land for a series of connected apartments. The Trustees all signed financial notes as a binder on this proposal. The proposal went to the zoning board and zoning appeals board . It was finally up to the City Common Council to make the final decision in our favor or not. The Council Chamber was packed with people. Representatives spoke for both sides. We all wore little blue ribbons to illustrate our cause. After a prolonged evening, the Council did not vote in our favor. Thus the decision was now apparent that we would someday build our new church on our property. The Trustees had made a valiant effort with the backing of the community.

Building Fund DinnerPerformance by the 'Beatles' at the Building Fund Dinner.

Another interesting note, at that time, is that St. Gregory’s Orthodox Church was formed from St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Poughkeepsie, because they did not want to have just Slavonic in their services. Many of their communicants were not of Russian heritage. They wanted some Slavonic but most of it to be in English. They were concerned about their new generation. Rev. Rizos asked if they wished to become part of our church community but they did not want to. We helped them hold their Liturgy and services in our Academy St. church once we had finished our Sunday services. They remained with us about a year until they found another semi-permanent site.

All during these eventful times Church services & holidays continued along with community meetings and social fundraising activities. The main concern of the community was the building of the new Church.

A Trustee representative visited the Center’s architect and reported to the Trustees that the architect was not familiar with our Church liturgical life and activities. The Trustees then decided to establish a core church building committee to look into all aspects of erecting a new church. This committee was formed and met on January 11, 1965. There were originally just 7 members; Lou J. Kustas, Tom Martini, Bill Pappas, Katie Buck, Steve Pechewlys, Gus Vaselekos & Zanis Mavodones. They soon expanded the committee to include 21 members of the community. They decided to visit other new churches in the region and various architects. They also examined the size of the community, its church programs and finances. They had a fundraising dinner at the Hellenic Center with Archbishop Iakovos as the main speaker. Sizeable pledges were made at that event. Visits to all of the community members were made to raise funds and pledges. The previous experience the community had in fundraising for the Hellenic Center was a great help.

The committee finally recommended Mr. Tasso Katselas, of Pittsburgh, Pa., to be commissioned to design the new Church in August 1965. He presented plans, designs, pictures and a model of the new Church to the Community at a general meeting. The members of the Church approved the plans and designs. Then the Archdiocese gave its approval to the plans.

Several builders’ bids were beyond the Community’s budget. Along with the assistance of the architect, a builder was located who could meet the budget limits. With this suitable recommendation they voted to award the contract to Dwight Builders. On July 16, 1967, exactly 43 years after the first groundbreaking ceremony, the second groundbreaking took place. Later on October 8, 1967, when the walls were beginning to rise, the cornerstone was laid. Enclosed in the new cornerstone were appropriate letters from the Board President - Zanis Mavodones, Building Fund Chairman - Louis J. Kustas and several items from the original cornerstone. Rev. N. Soteropoulos presided with other area clergymen, Trustees and enthusiastic members of the Church community.

Rev. Rizos had been transferred to the Archdiocese after the plans and design of the new Church had been finalized. Rev. Nicholas Soteropoulos was assigned here in 1967 and presided over the above ceremonies. Father Nicholas Soteropoulos had great enthusiasm for the new Church. He could often be seen climbing and examining the highest parts of the roof.

Article dated on December 27, 1965 regarding the building of the new church on South Grand Avenue

In 1966 the Trustees purchased a new parish house near the site of the new Church. The old parish house on Academy St. was now used to accommodate the large Sunday school classes. The Sunday school classes were large enough to encircle the entire seated congregation at the old church.

Before leaving, Rev. Rizos had organized an instrumental and singing group that performed Greek folk songs, dances and narration for many organizations in the greater Poughkeepsie community. They were excellent ambassadors. The members of the group were: Zanis Mavodones-narrator, Peter Antonakos & Anthony Gerakopoulos-mandolins, Emily George-guitar, Harry Kehagioglou-bouzouki and Kiki Mavodones-accordion. Rev. Rizos brought the music, coached and directed the above participants. It was not all work and no play, however, during these planning days of the community, before the groundbreaking ceremony.

The church building fund committee and Rev. Soteropoulos raised large amounts of funds but these were not enough. Therefore, a 20-year mortgage was obtained from the Poughkeepsie Savings Bank to finish building the church. The new Church was built in a Contemporary Byzantine style. It had large barrel vaults over 30’ from the nave floor, seating capacity for 600 compared to 100 in the old Church, 8 classrooms and two offices. It had large semi-circular windows in the vaults of the ceiling and no windows in the sidewalls and an imposing area for the sanctuary. The choir was located in the front left of the nave, there was an atrium in the narthex area and a glassed-in infants’ room facing the nave. It was and is the most imposing Church in the Poughkeepsie area.

Ground Breaking Ceremony for the new church on South Grand Avenue (1967).1983 Hellenic Festival.  Back Row: Mia Pagones, Joanna Papastrat.  Front Row: Maria Garofalis, Stemi Gorman, cindy Sofokles, Amalia Pagones, Phoebe Pechewles.

In 1968, the Board of Trustees finally sold the Academy Street Church to a carpenters’ union. The board was now able to use this money towards the construction of the new church.

At last the Church was completed and the first religious services took place on May 16, 1968. His Grace Bishop Silas officiated at the “Thiranixia”, the Door Opening Ceremonies. He was assisted by Rev. N. Soteropoulos, Rev. Demetrios Frangos (Dean of St. Basil’s Academy) and Rev. Pitirim Stehanch of St. Gregory’s.

With the new Church and Hellenic Center, our community hosted the First Bi-annual Archdiocesan District Clergy-Laity Conference on May 1969. Representatives of 85 parishes attended the event from New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. The Conference was well managed by Rev. N. Soteropoulos. Shortly thereafter he was assigned to the Archdiocese for new duties. Rev. Steven Sarigianis was then assigned here from Bethlehem , Pennsylvania.

The Church was having its problems during these following years, raising funds to take care of its expenses. Festivals, picnics, fashion shows and dances were held by various groups to fund the Church. At one general meeting a momentous suggestion was made by Bill Chamuris to have Bingo as a fundraising program. He was able to do the initial paperwork with the Trustees and the proper authorities to establish the program. It should be noted that this lasted for 30 years with many unsung loyal workers. The total amount that the Church received over those years was one and a half million dollars! Ted Papanastasiou chaired this program over its last years.

1974 Choir1980 Junior Choir

Some other activities took place during this period. The community helped sponsor a Greek-English Language radio program on Sundays for several years. In 1973 PYGA was formed for boys’ activities, namely softball and basketball and the young girls, that same year established the Maids of Alitheia for their activities in the community. The community held a Hellenic Festival annually, either in the spring or the fall. A new opportunity came about when the community was able to have a large Greek Food Booth at the Dutchess County Fair. This was worked by members of the community each year on the 3rd week in August. Now the parish had a Festival on the Church & Center grounds plus the County Fair grounds. Along with the regular life of the Church, these two events called forth the best efforts of all towards the goal of meeting the annual expenses of the community.

Along with the very active Sunday school, we were able to now add a Junior Choir that took part in many of the Church services with the senior choir. This also encouraged many of the youth to take part in the Lenten readings on Fridays.

A tragedy struck the community in the fall of 1977. The Hellenic Center was destroyed one Saturday night by fire. All that was left were the bare walls. One item that was lost was the original ornate chandelier from the old church. It had graced the center for many years and many functions. The community rallied, committees were set up and along with the Trustees the Center was rebuilt and opened again for events in 1979.

The years since the beginning of the church community had flown by, almost without being noticed. The members were often too busy to take note of their progress and accomplishments. The 50th anniversary of the Church Community was celebrated in 1979 with a gala Dinner held at the newly refurbished Hellenic Center. The greater Poughkeepsie area took note of the celebration with prominent dignitaries attending that evening.

1983 Dance Group at the Hellenic Festival1983 Cypriot Costumes worn by the Dance Group at the Hellenic Festival

Now that the Church was built, the members and the Trustees began to gradually decorate the interior. It was when Rev. N. Soteropoulos was here that the design of the large altar apse mosaic of the Virgin Mary was decided upon. Also at that time Mr. Mavodones designed the marble baptismal font that is based on the Baptistery of Hagia Sophia.

When Rev. S. Sarigianis came to the Church community the following additions were made: the installation of the altar area mosaic of the Virgin Mary, the moving of the older silver icons from the storage room to the two apse chapels on the left and right sides of the nave, the removal of the smaller silver votive icons on the brick iconostasion wall and their replacement by eight newly hand-crafted full sized mosaic icons. In addition, two Archangel icons from the original iconostasion of the old Church were added, a Byzantine style chandelier, the paintings of the 12 Apostles on the center cross beam of the nave and the huge icon of Christ the Pantocrator (He who Rules over all) on the central ceiling of the nave. The Ahepa donated the Royal doors to the altar area.

The early 1980’s saw a surge in new youth activities in addition to those that existed before. The Junior Choir took part on a regular basis in the Church. A Senior Greek Folk Dance group was organized. Not only did they dance at Church community events but did so quite often by invitation to other organizations outside the Church in the Poughkeepsie area. Soon a Junior Dance Group was formed and they too performed at many events. Both groups were attired in authentic costumes sewn by the ladies of the community. The dance group directors who led this renewal were Sophia Harrison and Kiki Mavodones and later assisted by Joanna Savides.

Most churches refer to themselves as parishes. Those of Greek heritage have a wider view of their Church life. They see themselves as part of a community where the Church serves as a major role in their life. They refer to their Church parish as a “Κοινοτητα” (a community). When those of Greek heritage meet they ask each other about Kinoteta (community), not just about the parish. They have deep feelings that the Church and community are intertwined, not separate entities.

1987 Greek SchoolYouth Welcoming Group for the Olympic Flame in 1980

Throughout all of the years in the history of the Kimisis community, the members and the Trustees have sought to retain the Greek Language. They have always believed that language enables one to retain a heritage. This is the reason they established a Greek School from the community’s beginning. The Greek language was taught over the years in the late afternoon classes held first in the old Church hall and now in the school wing of the new Church. Classes are still taught in the late afternoon but not 5 days a week as years ago.

The teaching of Greek has also helped retain the history, lore and legends of the classical Greek world that we all are familiar with. Each year, near the date of March 25th, the Greek School presents a program in Greek by the students in honor of Greek Independence day in costume and song. In the early days of the community, the Greek language was heard and used in homes. Today it is a second language that is heard and used in Greek School and in some homes. The language of the Church Liturgy has shifted over the years so by the 1980’s it was half in Greek and half in English. But the teaching of Greek retains the Church and historical heritage.

It was during the 1980 Winter Olympics that a costumed delegation from the Kimisis community welcomed the Olympic Torch as it passed through Poughkeepsie on its way to the Lake Placid Games. With the help of Mrs. Sophia Paivanas, who was on the Poughkeepsie Welcoming Committee, Mr. Mavodones took a lighted votive candle with the Olympic flame and lit every candle in the Church. Thus, as the Games were illuminated by the Olympic flame, that same light illuminated the Kimisis Church during all the games as well.

After many years of hard and trying times the Church had completed its final payments on the Church Mortgage. The community had a Gala Dinner at the Center for a Mortgage Burning Ceremony on August 15, 1987. For a second time in its history the community was debt free. It was a happy event.

For many years the community had a food booth at the Dutchess County Fair. The Dutchess County Fair Administration demolished several long-standing church food booths, one of which was the Kimisis booth that they had operated over the years. The booth was missed by many who attended the Fair for its fine Greek food. Often in its time the Greek Fair booth had received rave reviews about the delicacies served. Now the Kimisis community decided to have a Spring Festival and a Fall Festival to replace what they lost at the Dutchess County Fair. Greater Poughkeepsie responded by attending both Festivals with huge crowds.

It was in 1999 that Rev. Steve Sarigianis in semi-retirement was assigned to St. George’s Church community in nearby Kingston, NY. He had become our Pastor Emeritus. Rev. Nicholas Pastrikos was assigned here in 1999 to continue the work of Rev. S. Sarigianis.

The Philoptochos Society of the Community had existed for many years. It is the ladies’ association of the Church community. They were always ready to help the Church and the Trustees in any way they could, from making candles by hand in the early years, to sponsoring the early picnics and fundraising by selling raffles or baking delicacies. The year 2005 was to be their 80th anniversary. Many committees were established under the chairmanship of Lee Venetis for this Philoptochos event. Now it was the ladies’ turn to celebrate with the community. They held a Gala Celebration Dinner at the Dutchess Manor in Beacon, NY on October 23, 2005. There were about 300 in attendance. There were National Philoptochos representatives from the Archdiocese as well as local dignitaries and clergy.

80th Anniversary Philoptochos Committee

During this period the youth groups were becoming more active by making visits to other Church sites such as St. Basil’s Academy and several monasteries. They also made trips to social and recreational programs for their enjoyment and education and often sponsored parish brunches for the parishioners after the Sunday Liturgy. It can also be noted that in the mid 90s, our Kimisis Senior dancers were honored by being invited to perform folkdances for Patriarch Bartholomew’s first visit to the United States.

It was noted by many that we had been in the new Church since 1967 and had not been consecrated. Trustees and Rev. N. Pastrikos began to plan for a Consecration Ceremony to take place some time in the near future. This would entail a great deal of planning and participation by all segments of the community.

Plans were now set for the Consecration, which was set for the Fall of 2007. The Church was now completing its interior decoration for the event by adding marble in the area (solea) in front of the altar screen, tile-marble flooring in the sanctuary, an icon of the Crucifixion on the North nave wall, an icon of the Resurrection on the South nave wall, and a new Bishop’s throne and new Chanters’ stands. Six life-sized icons of Bishop Saints were also added to the altar wall namely: Sts. Basil, Gregory the Theologian, Chrysostom, Athanasios, Spyridon & Nectarios. New entrance doors were obtained to be installed after the Consecration. Repairs were also made on the narthex atrium to protect it from the weather, as it had been open to rain & snow over the years.

Kimisis Hellenic Dancers performing for His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on his first visit to the United States in 1997

Finally, all the preparations were completed. The Consecration Ceremony Vespers were presided over by His Grace Bishop Savas, Chancellor of the Archdiocese. Sunday Matins services were presided over by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios who also presided over the Liturgy along with Bishop Savas and a large number of priests from the surrounding parishes. This event was a double blessing as our Reverend Nicholas Pastrikos was elevated to the rank of Protopresbyter and our chanter Antonios Paravalos was elevated to Protopsalti. Following the elaborate ceremony, all present went to the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel for the Consecration Banquet. Along with the Archbishop, many County and local dignitaries spoke to over 300 present that afternoon. It was a memorable Sunday October 21, 2007.

It is important to add at this stage of the history the names of some who have had a positive impact on the Community...

The Chanters: Stephen Antonakos, Spyros Koutroubis, Vasilios Leontaras, Argiro Kustas, Maria Kavour Charinos, John Costas, Nicholas Kokkines, Demetrios Evangelou, Anthony Paravalos & Apostolos Apostolou.

The Choir Directors: Christine Labrinos, Stemi Antonakos Gorman, Irene Zanetos (Presbytera), Stella Antonakos, Mary Charkalis, Kiki Mavodones, Maria Givas and Connie Papanastasiou.

The Choir Organists: Stemi Antonakos Gorman, Demetrius T. Dogias, George Dogias, Christine Labrinos, Helen Fiumarello, Kiki Mavodones and Peggy Sophocles.

The Sunday School Directors: Stemi Antonakos Gorman, Georgia Chamberas, Zanis Mavodones, Peggy Sophocles and Pota Bozydaj.

The Bishops who visited us over the years: Archbishop Athenagoras, Archbishop Michael, Archbishop Iakovos, Archbishop Demetrios, Metropolitan Silas, Bishop Polyzoides, Bishop Olympiou, Bishop Xanthos, Bishop Philotheos and Archdiocesan Bishop Savas.

The following are the parishioners who had the responsibility over the years of holding the office of President of the Church Board of Trustees but not in chronological order. They are the ones I could discover.

Artemis Papastrat

Zanis Mavodones

Dr. Dino Papastrat

George Chamberas

William G. Kustas

George Pagones

Peter Sassos

Theo Argyropoulos

Demitrios Evangelou

Nicholas Anastasion

Ted Papanastasiou

Anthony Trigonis

Steven Verven

Paul Souliotes

Maria Verven

Nicholas Kakadelis

Anthony Moustakas

Charles Efantes

O.Thomas Martini

Peter Labrinos

Gus Vasilakos

Peter Givas

Kiki Moschopoulos

Nicholas Chumbres

John Gagas

John B. Vassilliw

Next are listed the priests who have served and are serving our Church Community over the years from its inception.

Rev. Agathangelos Petroploulos (1923 – 1925)

Rev. Peter Manoliades (1925 – 1926)

Rev. Jerotheos Stavrou (1926 – 1936)

Rev.Vasilios Vryniotis (1936 – 1939)

Rev. Dr. Jaochim Malachias (1939 – 1942)

Rev. Nikiforas Maximos (1942 – 1945)

Rev. John Zanetos (1945 – 1949)

Rev. Nicholas Vamvakos (1949 – 1950)

Rev. Athanasios Chamberas (1950 – 1963)

Rev. Athanasios Rizos (1963 – 1967)

Rev. Nicholas Soteropoulos (1967 -1970)

Rev. Steven Sarigianis (1970 - 1999)

Rev. Nicholas Pastrikos (1999 - 2011)

Rev. Gregory Patsis (2011 - 2016)

Rev. Joseph Collins (2016 - current)

Now that we have reached this stage in the history of the Kimisis Church Community, we should remember the charge we gave our architect when we asked him to design our church on Grand Avenue, “ We want to retain our heritage, to be current for today and be current in the days and years to come”. We should seek to follow the advice we gave him and remember “heritage”, “being current today” and “current tomorrow”.

I wrote this history from sources in the Church community and the Poughkeepsie community. Sources include: Church commemorative albums, newspaper articles, the Vassar College Library, the Dutchess County Historical Society, the City Assessor’s office, personal experiences and personal interviews.

Written By:

Zinas (Zanis) Mavodones

Photographic History and Editing

Kiki Mavodones and Anestis Karpalis