CHICAGO – Diana Petrakis, wife of well-known Greek-American author and The National Herald contributor Harry Mark Petrakis, passed away on Christmas day at home in Chesterton, IN, at the age of 96 from natural causes. The couple was married for 73 years, and the author told the Chicago Sun-Times that his wife influenced the female characters in his work with her warmth, and “nothing pretentious, a sweetness… there were always parts of her in the stories. My characters were parts of her.”
Standing beside his wife following a lecture in Toronto years ago, the organizer told Petrakis that although he was the “noted writer… we’ll be missing Diana more,” the Sun-Times reported.
Born Diana Perparos in Hyde Park, she attended services at the Greek Orthodox Church of Saints Constantine and Helen where her future father-in-law, Rev. Mark Petrakis served and where “according to family lore, a 10-year-old Diana pointed out Harry Mark across the pews to her sister and declared, ‘That’s the boy I’m going to marry,’” the Sun-Times reported.
“We were children who grew up together,” the 95-year-old author told the Sun-Times adding that when they reconnected as teenagers, sparks flew, “When she inhaled in one room, I exhaled in another.”
Married in 1945 with the Rev. Petrakis officiating, the couple had its ups and downs as Harry Mark struggled through various jobs and establishing his writing career while Diana took care of their three sons.
“Through the tumultuous and erratic course of my writing journey, Diana looked after our family. In times of stress, she was our comfort. She kept faith in me and that bolstered me when my confidence wavered. When I confronted her with decisions that were reckless, subduing her fears as a mother, she supported me. I remain convinced that without her love and the way she held our family together, I would not have written a single story or book,” he wrote in their 73rd anniversary story, published in TNH.
The family settled in Chesterton following a brief stay in Hollywood for a film adaptation of one of Petrakis’ books, A Dream of Kings, and spent many happy holidays enjoying Diana’s famous baklava, the Sun-Times reported.
“Her generosity, lovely smile, and infectious laughter could be guaranteed to light up a room,” her son Mark said in an email, the Sun-Times reported.
Diana Petrakis is survived by her husband and sons Mark, John, and Dean; grandchildren Alexis, Lucas and Adriana; great-granddaughter Mariana; and many nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews.
A memorial service was held on Wednesday, Jan. 2 with a Trisagion Service at Palos-Gaidas Funeral Home, 11028 Southwest Highway in Palos Hills. A church service was held on Thursday, Jan. 3 at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, 11025 S. Roberts Road in Palos Hills, followed by a reception at Louie’s Chophouse, 4642 W. 103rd St. in Oak Lawn.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made in Diana Petrakis’ name to the National Hellenic Museum.