WESTON – Antigone A. (Anagnostos) Agris of Weston, former publisher of The Hellenic Chronicle, for a half century the nation’s largest English language national weekly for Greek Americans, died on Tuesday, October 21, 2014, at the age of 88.
The widow of the late Peter Agris, she succeeded him as publisher of The Hellenic Chronicle in 1989 after his death. In recognition of her contributions to her ethnic community, she was a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 1998.
Born in Manchester, NH on December 20, 1925, she was the daughter of the late Apostolos and Anastasia (Kaltsas) Anagnostos, immigrants from the mountainous region of Thessaly, Greece. Her mother worked in the mill shoe shops of Manchester and her father at many confection and other food service jobs to support their four children.
Mrs. Agris graduated from Manchester Central High School in 1943. Rare for the times, she was awarded a scholarship to attend art school, but was unable to accept because of the need for her to work to support the family as her father faced Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Her first job was with Fidelity Mutual Insurance Co. during World War II. She often spoke of how her boss and all the agents went into the service, leaving her alone with one elderly agent to run the company. It was here that one regular policy holder would offer her a job at a greater salary at WFEA Radio in Manchester, starting first as a secretary to the sales staff and later to the general manager.
When Mrs. Agris approached the general manager about a Sunday morning Greek program similar to the French, Polish language shows, she was given the 9-9:30 am time slot as producer and host of Hellenic Rhythms. For five years, she would translate the news from the week and play popular music for the thousands of Greek immigrants and their American born families throughout the Manchester and Nashua, NH area.
It was there that she met her husband, who had months earlier established the newspaper in Boston. They were married December 9,1951 and after moving with her husband to the Boston area, accepted a job working with her sister-in-law at the then small company started by three MIT scientists, EG&G. Mrs. Agris was working for Profs. Harold Edgerton, Kenneth Germeshausen and Herbert Grier at the time they were working to develop the atom bomb.
When she became pregnant, Mrs. Agris left EG&G to work from home from her husband’s newspaper, while caring for her infant son. The couple first lived in Dorchester, then Central Square, Cambridge and later Arlington, before moving to Wellesley in 1965. She would later tell her children that their father would only look at homes in Wellesley because he had installed the parking meters in downtown when he was working for the Duncan Co. out of Chicago and the Cambridge native promised himself someday he would live in the beautiful Boston suburb.
It was the same year that the couple purchased 324 Newbury St. in Boston to house the now expanding offices of the newspaper. In the 60s, that Mass. Ave block of Newbury St. was a far cry from the likes of today’s designer store lessees. The building had housed Meador Publishing Corp. and still held a basement complete with printing press. The Agrises would renevote each of the main floors and then move on to open the first basement retail space on that block, which found neighbors on both sides of the street following suit.
As the newspaper grew in stature, so did the couple’s presence at the helm of the Greek community in Boston. They would welcome then Vice President Spiro Agnew to Boston to speak at the paper’s 20th anniversary gala at the Sheraton Boston and would become major supporters of fledgling politicians Michael Dukakis and Paul Tsongas.
It was Mrs. Agris who quietly manned the offices of the newspaper while her husband would go to Washington to lobby Congress on behalf of the Greek community’s position to place U.S. embargo against Turkey following its invasion of Cyprus or to take Gov. Dukakis to Greece to experience his Hellenic roots.
She would serve as his right hand in the establishment of The Alpha Omega Council of New England in 1976, which continues today as among this region’s largest and most dynamic philanthropic organizations.
Together the couple published the newspaper until Mr. Agris succumbed to cancer in February of 1989. She would continue to publish the newspaper with her two children until September 20, 2000, the paper’s 50th anniversary to the day, when the decision was made to cease publication. She retired to devote herself to her family and her extensive philanthropic work.
Mrs. Agris helped to established a journalism scholarship program in her husband’s memory under the auspices of The Alpha Omega Council of New England. Twenty-three years later, almost $500,000 in scholarships have been awarded to Greek Americans who have gone on to careers in the fields of the journalism and communications fields both nationally and abroad.
A member for four decades of the Hellenic Women’s Club EOK, one of the nation’s oldest charitable organizations, she was also an avid supporter of the Hellenic Cardiac Fund for Children at Children’s Hospital, the Hellenic Home for the Aged in Canton and many other religious and philanthropic causes.
Mrs. Agris was a devoted parishioner of the St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Weston from 1965 and served as a member of its Philoptochos Society.
She is survived by her children, Peter James Agris and Nancy Agris Savage; her grandchildren, Lydia Antigone Savage and Jocelyn Agris Savage; her siblings, Sophia Rantis and husband Demosthenes Rantis and USN Capt. (ret.) George Anagnostos and wife Ellen Anagnostos; sisters-in-law, Anna Agretelis and Athena Calakoutis and husband Christos Calakoutis; and many cousins, nieces and nephews. She was also predeceased by her brother, James Anagnostos.
Memorial donations may be made to the Peter Agris Memorial Journalism Scholarships, ℅ Alpha Omega Council, PO Box 752, Foxboro, MA 02035 or to the St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, 57 Brown St., Weston, MA 02493.