TARPON SPRINGS — Her brood of grandchildren romped in the yard every holiday and just about every day after school. In the evenings, the matriarch of one of Tarpon Springs' most prominent families, their beloved yiayia, called the grandchildren inside for home-cooked dinners.
"The grandmother everyone would want to have," as a grandson described her, died Tuesday of congestive heart failure. Nickoletta "Nickie" Orfanides Pappas, wife of Jack Louis Pappas, was 82.
Born in Tarpon Springs, Mrs. Pappas was a drum majorette in the marching band at Tarpon Springs High School. She graduated in 1948. In 1951, she married her childhood sweetheart, whom she had met in first grade.
Hobby No. 1 for her was caring for her husband. Jack Pappas is the youngest of three sons of Louis Pappas, founder of the famed Pappas Restaurant on the Sponge Docks.
Nickie Pappas' other hobbies were taking care of her five children and caring for her grandchildren and her many friends, said grandson Tommy Koulouris.
Nobody left Mrs. Pappas' house unfed. Even for the Pappas family, renowned for its Greek food, her home was the best place to eat.
"My mom was a homemaker," said her son, Louis Jack Pappas. "As we were growing up, she lived in the kitchen. We always wanted mom's cooking rather than going down to the restaurant."
For a while, she sang with the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral choir. She played cards with her friends. But Mrs. Pappas always filled her days with family time: In the morning, she sipped coffee with her husband. At night, they ate dinner together.
She held her big family together with unconditional love. "She was the head of her household, no doubt," her son said.
Stephanie Wang can be reached at (727) 445-4155 or [email protected]