NEW YORK – One hundred and fifty descendants of George and Nick Kapassakis were gathered the afternoon of October 18 at the Rex Manor catering hall in Brooklyn.
The purpose of the unique event was to introduce the younger members of the family to each other and to revive a tradition that began when the community’s pioneers arrived in New York seeking better lives.
The reunion of the Kapassakis families was organized about a year ago following the reunion of the descendants of Evangelos and Anthoula Rakintzis and which was celebrated at the Lemnian House in Astoria (see TNH of 7 Oct. 2014). Although both reunions differed in some elements, like the number of participants, nevertheless, they had several common features.
Both were characterized by the comin.g together of three generations of descendants which reunited their ties with Crete and Lemnos respectively. The Kapassakis clan has now decided to organize their next reunion in the homeland of the grand fathers and great grandfathers at the Mathe settlement belonging to the Municipality of Apokoronas in the prefecture of Chania in Crete.
The Kapassakis families, as Eleni Passias pointed out, originate from Alikambos in Chania. In the closing days of the Ottoman occupation, first cousins George Kapassakis and Nick Kapassakis settled in Mathe, where they got married and raised families. George and Nick had never lived in America themselves, but all of their children came after WWII and among them the only survivors are Georgia Kapassakis and Christos and Argyro Kapassakis. Thus, the people who came to the reunion are their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, who are third, fourth, and fifth cousins and nephews and nieces.
The organizers were Irine Likokas and Eleni Passias, granddaughters of the late Spyros and Kalliope Kapassakis, and by admission of all it was one of the best and most touching event they have experienced. Eight-year old Daniella Marina Demertzis stole the spotlight when she dedicated a song to her great grandfather, Panagiotis Kapassakis, because he was the first one who came to America. The video was posted on TNH’s Facebook page and website and by the time this article had been drafted it was visitedby 2470 people.
Most of the descendants of the Kapassakis families live in the tri-state area, while the rest live in Boston, Delaware and in other parts of the United States. The Kapassakis families have researched their family tree, which goes back six generations but the second and third generations can be highlighted as follows: George Kapassakis was married to Katina, and they had five children: Panagiotis, who was married to Evanthia, Andreas who was married to Sofia, Eleni who was married to Joseph Xenakis, and Stiliani who was married to Joseph Papadakis, and Spyros who was married to Kalliope Kapassakis. Nick Kapassakis’s first cousin was married to Evangelia and they had three boys, Costas who was married to Eleni, George who was married to Georgia, and Christos who was married to Argyro.
The first Kapassakis to discover America was Panagiotis Kapassakis, who came by ship at the age of 17.During the WW II he returned to his homeland where he married his sweetheart Evanthia. Due to the war he stayed at Mathe. In 1947 he came back to New York and brought, one after the other, members of eight households bearing three different last names: Kapassakis, Xenakis, and Papadakis. Most of them, as Eleni Passias and her mother Eftychia Lamprakos pointed out, settled in the New York Metropolitan Area and engaged in the traditional business of the Greeks, restaurants and construction.
Their children and grandchildren were educated in the best universities and by the 4th reunion most of the adults were university graduates, doctors, lawyers, and businessmen. All of them however are good family men and devoted patriots.
Their grandchildren and great grandchildren, as Likokas said, are studying the Greek language at home and at the community’s day and afternoon schools. They are also learning traditional dances at the dance groups of organizations based in Brooklyn and Astoria. During the ‘50s and ‘60s on major holidays the Kapassakis families met at their homes and at the events of Cretan associations. In 1987, when the addition of grandchildren made gatherings at their homes problematic, the Kapassakis families decided to organize their first reunions, which were held in the Three Hierarchs Church’s Gold Room.
“During that period, we could not afford to rent a hall for events. We were preparing the food, pies, pastries and sweets and we celebrated our first reunion at Three Hierarchs of Brooklyn,” mentioned Eftychia Lamprakos. This time, however, they decided to organize the reunion at Rex Manor because it belongs to Christos Markakis, grandson of Stiliani and Joseph Kapassakis.
“The first reunion was in the Church basement, while the one yesterday was held in one of the most prestigious Greek-American facilities in Brooklyn,” pointed out Ms. Lamprakos in jest. Eleni Passias noted that organizing the reunion was no easy task.
It required a lot of work to invite all of the members. The most important thing, however, was for each participant to bring their family traditions and stories about the ancestors that he grew up with she said. At the conclusion of the event, everyone gathered for the traditional commemorative photograph. “There were so many of us, that we couldn’t all fit in the picture. Thank God for Mr. Kosta Bej, the TNH photo-reporter, who came with his wide-angle lens and got us all in the picture,” pointed out Eleni Passias, who created a special Facebook page for the reunion.
Eftychia Lamprakos, speaking to TNH, expressed her satisfaction for everyone’s participation and she emphasized that they were all happy with the decision to hold the next reunion at Mathe in Crete. “We will all go with our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren so that they can see Crete, the land of heroes and brave men and women, and at the same time to show our brothers in Greece that for us, family is our first priority, and parallel to this, to show them that Cretans, no matter where they are, carry Crete within them and they disseminate its traditions to their families,” she concluded.