MEMPHIS, TN – Father Nicholas L. Vieron, son of Leonidas and Ellas (nee Metaxas) Vieron, was born in New Orleans on November 13, 1925 and lived across the street from the first Greek Orthodox Church in the United States. Greek was his first language, as noted in his biography. He graduated from high school at the age of 16 and immediately went to Pomfret, probably the youngest ever to enroll at the seminary. A 1947 Holy Cross graduate, he was ordained to the priesthood October 26, 1948, by Bishop Germanos Polizoides, and served one year in Louisville, KY, and five in Huntington, WV, before being assigned in 1955 to the Annunciation Church in Memphis, TN. He retired in 1991 and is now Pastor Emeritus of the Memphis church.
He earned a Master’s Degree in History from Marshall University in 1955, and later, in 1970, a Jurisprudence Degree from Memphis University School of Law. Though retired, Fr. Vieron is still active in the community and teaches an Adult Greek Class which just completed its 45th year with a commencement ceremony and dinner on May 25.
The energetic “elder statesman” in the Memphis Ministers’ Association, Fr. Vieron enjoys teaching his Adult Greek Class. Students from all walks of life enroll in the course, which is not a fund-raising effort, but a fun, educational program where all graduate “with honors.” The majority the students who take the 14-week course are not of Greek origin. They learn the New Testament Language, ancient and modern Greek history and art, as well as the Orthodox Faith and Greek traditions, culture, food, and dance.
Showing no signs of slowing down, Father V, as he is affectionately known, will be 92 when he begins teaching his next session of the Adult Greek Class on January 15, 2018. He said, as reported in 4Memphis, “Ever since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was declared a holiday, I have started my Greek class on that day- the third Monday of January- in honor of the fact that my students reflect a cross-section of people, the kind of world Dr. King envisioned.”
The students’ reaction to the class is moving. Student evaluations, as reported in 4Memphis, include such comments as “This class is the highlight of my week,” “Through your eyes, I have seen God,” and “The passion you have for God and your homeland… have made me more interested in Greek culture.”
As Sister Terry Starr said when asked what she liked about Fr. Vieron’s class, quoted in the class brochure, “Now I can tell God I love Him in Greek; I also enjoy your humor.”
A senior citizen Memphian, Loretta C. Taras, wrote the following in a 2005 parish commemorative album: “Fr. Vieron’s ecumenical spirit is his hallmark. He made the Orthodox Church known to the entire Mid-South. His prayer, ‘Whether we worship in the Shadow of His Cross, or near the Star of David, or by some other symbol or by no symbol at all, we all stand as brothers and sisters under the Fatherhood of our One God, a truth indelibly written in our hearts in black and white,’ has comforted and uplifted people all over the city. One cannot forget his role in the struggle for human rights during the turbulent late 60s when he and a small group of white ministers, together with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to heal a suffering Memphis community.”
For 17 years, Fr. Vieron was the editor of the Retired Clergy Association’s monthly publication. He and wife Bess have two sons, Leonidas and Paul, four grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
More information on Fr. Vieron’s Adult Greek Class at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Memphis is available by phone 901-355-2809. Those interested in participating should register early as the class fills up quickly.