PHILADELPHIA, PA – She descends from a long line of clergy, but Ourania Papademetriou has made a mark for herself in the legal field, as have other members of her family. And now, the Philadelphian commonly known as “Rainy,” is running for judge.
“My parents, of course, always called me Ourania,” she tells TNH, “but my brothers and cousins came up with the nickname Ranny. Somehow, and I’m not sure how, when I went to college ‘Ranny’ became ‘Rainy’ and that name has stuck ever since.”
A Temple University Law School graduate, Papademetriou is the Managing Attorney at Philadelphia VIP, a nonprofit organization that delivers free legal services to those in need. A former ADA in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and Director of Legal Services at Women Against Abuse, Papademetriou is running for a judicial seat on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. The date of the Primary is May 19.
Papademetriou comes from a family of clergy. Her father is Reverend Spyridon Papademetriou, who has devoted over 50 years to the Greek Orthodox Church, and currently serves at the Sts. Constantine and Helen Church in Reading.
His brother George, also a clergyman, retired from full time service over a decade ago, and both he and his wife, Presbytera Athanasia, are authors. Their parents – Rainy’s grandparents – were the late Reverend Constantine and, her namesake, Presbytera Ourania Papademetriou.
Following the end of WWII, the Papademetrious immigrated to the United States – they are from the Karpenisi region – in 1947. Constantine had arrived earlier, in 1938, sent by Patriarch Benjamin to minister the young but emerging Greek Orthodox Church in America. A young Spyridon entered the seminary in Pomfret, CT. Rainy says one of her favorite family pictures is a small black and white photograph of her father as a young seminarian at Pomfret, shy and proudly holding the hand of the soon to be named Patriarch Athenagoras. “This picture represents to me my father’s commitment and love of our church and his sincere understanding of the immensity of the work he was about to embrace as a dedicated parish priest.”
Another uncle of hers, John, was killed in 1952, serving in the Korean War. He was awarded, posthumously, the Purple Heart and Silver Star by President Truman, and he received a hero’s burial at the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC.
Rainy Papademetriou cherishes her family’s relationship with Archbishop Iakovos. “His Eminence would visit and sit at our dining room table and marvel at my mother’s (Presbytera Metaxia Papademetriou) Greek home cooking. He was a great friend of our family and officiated at the funeral of both my Pappou and my Yiayia,” she says.
“Archbishop Iakovos knew of my grandfather’s sacrifice,” to leave his family and go to the United States to serve the church there, she tells, TNH, “and also that my father and uncle had come to serve as clergy as well. He respected our family’s true dedication and service to the church. When he was in the area of my father’s parishes, he would stay in our home. He would remark how my Yiayia, who lived in New York, always had a kind word after Liturgy, complimenting his sermon or admiring his vestments. He presided over the funeral of both my Pappou, and several years later, my Yiayia.”
RAINY FOR JUDGE
In explaining her decision to run for judge, Papademetriou tells TNH: “I have dedicated my entire career as an attorney to promoting equal access of justice to the courts, helping to give a voice to those who need legal assistance and have nowhere else to turn. For many years I have worked closely with members of the legal profession, attorneys and judges alike, to promote and advance this important issue. I believe that my experience in public service and my extensive work in public interest give me the experience and a strong foundation to listen to and be fair to the litigants that come before me.
“The judge in a case sets the expectations for civility, decorum and respect. These are the important qualities that our citizens look for in order to have confidence in our legal system. Those who know me and have worked with me, know I am understanding, patient, compassionate, even-tempered, and open-minded. I am able to deal with difficult and challenging situations with fairness, confidence and common sense. I have a strong sense of justice developed over her many years of work in our community on behalf of those in need.”
In 2010, Papademetriou was awarded the Philadelphia Bar Foundation Award. This award is presented to an attorney in the Philadelphia public service legal community whose career work advances the cause of equal access to justice for those struggling with discrimination, abuse and poverty. Her 25-year career in public service was recognized for her “unparalleled commitment to clients, possessing a deep understanding of her client’s suffering and an ability to access the public interest legal community.”
FAMILY, FAITH, AND TNH
Papademetriou met her husband of 31 years, Jon Belisonzi, in law school. Their daughter Eleni, and her husband William Fritze, are both ADAs in the Philadelphia DA’s Office and their daughter Lisa is a tax accountant for Comcast. They all reside in the downtown historic center of Philadelphia. Eleni, like her parents, graduated from Temple Law School. Lisa is a graduate of the Smeal School of Business at the Pennsylvania State University. They all attend the historic Saint George Cathedral, where Papademetriou serves on the Board of Directors of the Saint George Senior Housing Corporation. Eleni and Lisa are the Directors of the Saint George Sunday School, the same Sunday School they attended at the same Church where they were baptized.
“Coming from a family dedicated to the Greek Orthodox faith,” Papademetriou says, “my parents instilled the value of working for others early on in my life. They truly led through example. My entire legal career has been in honor of that ideal. As a lawyer, I stand up and represent the neediest in important issues such as custody, child support, protection from abuse orders and housing issues. ‘To whom much has been given, much will be expected’ (Luke 12:48). Jesus used these words to explain a parable, but for me they speak directly to the responsibility of being a lawyer. The advantages of a law degree give lawyers a unique opportunity to help improve the lives of low income and disadvantaged people. Too often, the justice system is closed to those most in need of its protections. The principle of access to justice for all is central to our democracy and the effectiveness of our system. It is essential to the most vulnerable members of our society.
“My parents brought us to visit Greece once when I just graduated from high school, Papademetriou continues, “and I have visited with my husband and children two times, most recently in 2012.
“Growing up, my father would read the Greek edition of the National Herald. He was proud to have a subscription to a Greek newspaper, and would share its articles with his congregation. Now my family enjoys the English language edition. It is important to us to know what’s going on with our fellow Greek-American, and to follow the news and issues of our community.”
GEARING FOR MAY 19
“The campaign is going well!” Papademetriou says. “Philadelphia is large city geographically and a very diverse community. I have been busy meeting as many Philadelphians as I can, listening to their concerns and sharing my background and qualifications. I have enjoyed meeting so many people through this process.
“I am so grateful for the positive response and outpouring of support from the Greek community! I ask all Philadelphians to vote for me on May 19th for the Court of Common Pleas; and to those readers who are not from Philadelphia, I ask that they forward this article to any Philly-based friends” and visit her website, rainyforjudge.com.