NEW ORLEANS, LA – Anita Pelias Georges, Greek-American matriarch in New Orleans known for her volunteer work, sense of humor, and hospitality, passed away on January 4 at Touro Infirmary at the age of 89, Nola.com reported.
According to the report on Nola.com, “Georges grew up on St. Charles Avenue but also spent years working in a warehouse in the family’s grocery-distribution business, Imperial Trading Co. Perhaps as a result of her upbringing, she had the ‘ability to make all feel regal in her presence,’” said nephew Michael Pelias.
“She was universally gracious, even to people whom others might regard as outcasts, Pelias said, citing a Christmas dinner she gave to which Mac Rebennack, the musician better known as Dr. John, brought with him a man who had served time at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola,” Nola.com reported.
“When Rebennack asked his hostess whether his companion would be welcome, she replied affirmatively, Pelias said, and added, ‘There is more than enough lamb for him, and by all means, have the wine, too,’” Nola.com reported, adding that “Georges would host Sunday lunches for Tulane University students and others from out of town whom she would meet at church.”
Born in New Orleans on November 9, 1930, Georges was the daughter of Greek immigrants. She attended Louise S. McGehee School, where she was class president, graduated from Sophie B. Wright High School, and attended Newcomb College.
“Her father, Constantine Pelias, founded Imperial Trading, which supplies food for convenience stores and pharmacies,” Nola.com reported, adding that “she worked in the family warehouse, punching tax stamps onto packs of cigarettes, said her son John Georges, CEO of Georges Media and owner of The Times-Picayune and The Advocate.”
“Throughout Anita Georges’ life, she was known as a spirited and lively soul who loved to tell jokes, Karin Giger wrote in a profile,” Nola.com reported, noting that “her favorite day of the year was April Fools’ Day.”
“Anita surrounded herself with fun people wherever she went, and she was always the most fun of all,” the architect Chris Carson, a cousin, told Giger, Nola.com reported. “Despite her elegant upbringing, Anita was never snobby. She was open and nice to everyone. She had a great sense of ease and happiness.”
In 1952, Georges met her future husband at a dance held at a Greek Orthodox Church in New Orleans. Dennis A. Georges, an officer in the Greek Royal Air Force was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, at the time, and Anita “was smitten, her son said, but there was a small problem: Even though she had grown up in a Greek-American household, she spoke no Greek, and he spoke no English,” Nola.com reported.
The couple married in 1953, moved to Greece where Dennis completed his military service and Anita became fluent in Greek, Nola.com reported, adding that the couple “then returned to New Orleans to raise a family.”
A founding member of the Beach Club, Georges “never missed her children’s football, basketball or volleyball games,” Nola.com reported.
The family suffered the tragic loss of son Nike in a car accident in 1974 during the Christmas holidays, Nola.com reported.
Noting that “the Greek Orthodox Church was the center of their lives,” the report on Nola.com also pointed out that “Dennis A. Georges founded the Greek Festival, which has become an overwhelmingly popular annual event in New Orleans, and his wife was a volunteer at the festival, where she greeted people at the entrance gate.”
Mrs. Georges was also active in the Philoptochos Society and supported organizations including the Salvation Army, Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre, the New Orleans Film Society, Lindy’s Place, Bridge House, and the Special Olympics.
Her alma mater, The McGehee School named her a Distinguished Alumna, Nola.com reported.
She was predeceased by her husband who passed away in 2002. She is survived by two sons, Constantine and John Georges, both of New Orleans; two daughters, Alexa Georges and Pam Dongieux, both of New Orleans; and six grandchildren.
Visitation takes place at 11 AM on January 7 at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 1200 Robert E. Lee Blvd. Services will be at 12:30 PM, followed by burial in Metairie Cemetery. Lakelawn Metairie Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements, Nola.com reported.