Honoree Christopher Stratakis at the podium with his wife and fellow honoree Maro Stratakis at left, and Archdiocesan Cathedral Philoptochos President Madelene Lambiris, at right. (Photo by Eleni Sakellis)
NEW YORK – The Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity Philoptochos Society hosted the 2023 Chrysanthemum Ball at Guastavino’s in Manhattan on November 17. Held under the auspices of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, the event honored Christopher Stratakis, Esq. and his wife Maro Stratakis for their contributions and years of dedicated service to the Church and the community.
The event began with the invocation by Archbishop Elpidophoros and Dean of the Cathedral Fr. Chrysostomos Gilbert and continued with welcoming remarks by Philoptochos President Madelene Lambiris who thanked everyone for coming and for their support throughout the years with annual contributions over $100,000 to support various programs to help those in need. Lambiris thanked the honorary ball chairs John Stratakis, Esq., and Dr. Corina Gerontis, the ball chairs Catherine Moutoussis and Rallou Zervoudakis, and acknowledged the Philoptochos “Board of Directors for all their hard work and devotion to our organization and a special thanks to Fr. Chrysostomos for his support leading up to our event.”
Lambiris then invited John Stratakis and Dr. Corina Gerontis to the podium to share their remarks. Stratakis said: “It is really a great pleasure for Corina and me to be back here with the Cathedral community to celebrate my parents on this evening at the Chrysanthemum Ball their dedication and commitment to the Church and to the community is clearly appreciated and shown by the turnout and the attention, and the wonderful people, friends and family, who are here tonight.”
He continued: “Most people know my father as a very serious guy, which he is, you may also know him as being hard-working, diligent, a man of faith, philanthropic, all true, also a family man devoted to his wife, his children, his grandchildren.”
Stratakis then shared some charming family memories about his father’s mother who lived to be 98, and was still concerned about her son into his 70s, and about his parents long history at the Cathedral. Christopher Stratakis, a native of Chios, sang in the Cathedral Choir in the 1940s, he and Maro, also a Chios native though her family was from the neighboring island of Oinousses, were married at the Cathedral on October 25, 1959, and she joined the Philoptochos in 1993.
“Something surrounds them that has been like a guardian angel, something watching over them and they’ve been very fortunate in their lives,” Stratakis said of his parents. “My parents taught my sisters and me to be devoted to the community, to give back as much as we could, that was part of being a good citizen, staying close to the Church is a big part of that for us, and as for dad, regardless of what he’s done… he’s always tackled every project with seriousness, dedication, selflessness, and great care… Mom, Dad, congratulations and thank you to the Cathedral for this wonderful honor.”
The Ball Co-Chairs then shared their remarks with Catherine Moutoussis noting that “both Chris and Maro have worked very hard for the Greek Orthodox faith and our Cathedral, deserving our deepest respect and appreciation, they are exemplary members of our community and great role models for the younger generation.”
She continued: “On behalf of the members of the Archdiocesan Cathedral Philoptochos Society I have the pleasure to pay tribute to Maro, a devoted member for the past 30 years. Maro first became involved with our Philoptochos at the urging of the
late Philoptochos President Minna Colakis, who nominated her as a board member in 1993.”
“I got to personally know Maro when she was elected to the Executive Board as the First Vice President for the term 2007-2009, since then I have been lucky to work with her on many occasions as she continued her service to the Board, co-chairing multiple events and committees, today I am honored to say I value Maro not only as a committed Board member but as a close friend, she has been an active, thoughtful, hard-working, and generous member of our Board eager to help, give support, guidance and always with an infectious and most energizing smile. Maro has consistently met the high expectations she sets for herself and encourages the members of our community to do the same. Please join me in thanking Maro for her continuous and committed dedication to our philanthropic organization.”
Rallou Zervoudakis then shared her greetings, noting that “Christopher and Maro are two amazing individuals who as a team together have accomplished numerous achievements and have served our community for many years.” She added that honorees’ children and grandchildren were in attendance and that the honorees had donated copies of the book Christopher wrote titled Appointment with Yesterday.
The honorees were then presented with a gift on behalf of the Archdiocesan Cathedral Philoptochos Society and then shared their remarks. Christopher Stratakis noted that he did sing in the choir and also taught Sunday School, adding that after the course of their life took them away from New York, as “empty-nesters” years later, they returned to the city and to the Cathedral.
He said that life is a gift from God and in his life “I tried to do what was expected of me and what my sense of duty dictated, in other words, give and provide to my fellow men and women what God’s generosity gave me, because a rich man is not the one who has collected a lot, a rich man is the one who gives out more.”
Stratakis noted that rights come with responsibilities. “What I have done in my life is nothing special and I can tell you that I received more than I gave because in the flow giving my time… I met some amazing people who enriched my life and cultivated friendships that lasted a lifetime.”
“The accolades and the things we hear tonight, my wife and I, do not belong to us, they belong to our forebears, to those came to this country many years ago and what did they do, first they were bereft of skills and basic human comforts but what they accomplished has been the other piece on which today’s miracle we call Hellenic presence in America has been founded, that is what our forebears accomplished. To them, the faceless heroes, belong the encomiums and honors… Above everything else, I would like to thank all of you for your presence tonight, you honored my wife and me by being here tonight.”
Maro Stratakis also thanked everyone for their presence, noting that the Philoptochos “deserves all our help and support.” She continued: “I have served the Philoptochos for 30 years and I can tell you that the ladies that serve on that Board are dedicated and very serious about their responsibility to you, the supporters, and to the people in need. It was a great experience for me to be on the Board with such a nice group of women, I very much enjoyed working with them and I also made some great friends, now I thought it was time for me to retire, but I’m not going away, I will always be close to the Philoptochos and ready to give a helping hand if needed. Thank you ladies for the special recognition for Chris and myself. We have been very fortunate and I enjoyed many blessings some are here tonight, Sophia, John and Corina, and we have with us two of our grandchildren Christopher and Anastasia. Thank you all for being here.”
Archbishop Elpidophoros in his remarks said: “Our honorees, Archon Notarios Christopher and beloved ‘Maro’ Stratakis, are renowned within the Omogeneia and the greater New York Society. Their interests range from education to opera, from the minutiae of admiralty law to philanthropy. The course of their lives is truly miraculous to behold.”
“I would like to make careful mention of the international character of their dedication and devotion to their faith and heritage as well,” His Eminence said. “They have never forgotten their homeland of Greece, and they have never forgotten the interests of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Whether on a local, regional, national or a truly ecumenical level, Chris and Maro bring their passion and energy to the pursuit of ‘the beautiful and the good.’”
Stephanie Pantelidis, Advisor to the Philoptochos Board, then presented the Philoptochos’ contribution of $25,000 to the Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Child Life Services Program which was accepted on behalf of MSK Cancer Center by Rachel Flannery.
The event continued with music by Yianni Papastefanou & Orchestra and dancing well into the night.
Among those present were His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios formerly of America, Permanent Representative of Greece to the United Nations Ambassador Evangelos Sekeris and his wife Maria Kazana, Consul General of Greece in New York Dinos Konstantinou, Consulate General of Greece in New York Department of Economic and Commercial Affairs Head Nikolaos Thomopoulos, Greek Public Diplomacy Office Head Mary Vaxevanidou, Archdiocesan Cathedral Board of Trustees President Stella Pantelidis, John Catsimatidis and his wife Margo, and AHEPA Chairman of the Board of Trustees Nicholas Karacostas.
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