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Politics

Demetra Andronico, Oakland Philanthropist, Dies at 99

January 7, 2019
Theo Karantsalis

OAKLAND, CA – Demetra Andronico was more than a pillar of Oakland’s massive Greek community. She along with her family helped build its entire foundation.

Andronico died at age 99 on January 2 in her Kensington home, located in the San Francisco Bay-area, where she lived for almost six decades.

Affectionately known as “Dee,” the etymology of her name hearkens back centuries to Eleusis, Greece, where visitors often watched locals make offerings before a statue of Saint Demetra so their fields and harvests might be blessed.

Born to Greek immigrants in Stockton, CA, she earned an associate’s degree from Sacramento State University and worked briefly at McClellan Air Force Base before marrying John Andronico, the founder of the upscale Bay Area supermarket chain, Andronico’s Park and Shop.

Andronico and her family were prodigious givers and lived according to St. Luke’s biblical dictate: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Such piety was part of the family’s fabric instilled and reinforced by relatives like Rev. John Andronico, who served the community of Paros, a small island in the Aegean Sea, in the mid-1800s, shortly before the younger John Andronico’s parents came to America.

And as the local Oakland Greek community asked and asked and asked, Andronico gave and gave and gave. There seemed to be no limits to how much she gave of her time and resources, all of which centered around the church. From major capital campaign contributions, to charity benefits, to anonymous and lesser-known activities like shipping truckloads of food more than 100 miles to Garberville, CA, to feed hungry kids at Greek summer camp.

“The Andronicos provided lots of support to the Greek community during church events such as the annual festival and summer camp,” said John Bournazos, an satellite engineer with the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, based in San Diego, CA. “In addition, they provided scholarships and employment opportunities that enabled students, both local and from Greece, a chance to complete their education.”

Instead of low-budget foods like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Bournazos and his fellow Greek campers, who ventured up to Humboldt County each summer in the ’70s, often banged their metal trays for seconds as they feasted on premium steaks, filet mignon, and lobster, courtesy of the Andronicos.

Bournazos, like many of the “kids” from Oakland’s Greek community, went on to become leaders in their respective fields. Others include prominent judges, doctors, librarians, and more. Andronico’s lasting legacy will be how she helped shaped each of their lives.

Rev. Thomas J. Paris, a former longtime Oakland parish priest, who also served as a Greek summer camp advisor, did not respond to an email from TNH seeking comment.

Andronico is survived by her brother, Gus (Lillian), two sons, Frank and Bill (Rhonda), her daughter, Connie, and three grandchildren, Kendall, Lauren and Grace. She was predeceased be her husband, John.

Funeral services will be held at 10 AM on Jan. 11 at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension, located at 4700 Lincoln Blvd., in Oakland, CA.  For information, call 510-531-3400.

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