Irene Argyris, beloved wife of Steve Argyris, left us this week. She was my closest aunt, by marriage, of Ted's family. Stricken by cancer, she left with head held high as she never accepted to fight the deadly disease with chemotherapy, but, rather, spent her last summer in Lefkada enjoying her family, her beautiful home and the deep blue Ionian sea.
Irene lived an uncompromising end just as she lived an uncompromising life, always displaying a unique youthfulness which you thought would never end, even as the years passed. I first met Irene when she had just turned fifty, the year I was engaged to Ted and entered the Argyris family. I met her in Valaoritou Street, in downtown Athens, and admired her for her elegance, her charm and her laughter.
She was a Canadian of Greek origin and that made her very proud. Although she was born in Montreal, she spoke Greek perfectly and adored her country of origin. She returned to Greece every summer, to roam with friends on the islands and to end up, every August, with Steve, in Lefkada, where they would enjoy the beaches and the local food at the tavernas as if there were no tomorrow.
When I came to settle in Montreal, Irene opened her arms and her home to me as I was trying to adapt to the unknown reality of this wintry city. She always invited us for dinner, preparing the table, every time, as if it were a big celebration. She would always set crisp tablecloths and fine porcelain and, of course, serve the most beautiful and delicious dishes.
Those days will remain engraved in my heart and in my memory for the love, the generosity and the welcoming hug that Irene showed me. And I will never forget the evenings that we enjoyed with resounding, carefree laughter while Irene shared family stories that helped add to the understanding of my adopted home.
Every holiday, Irene would invite us to her festive feasts. At Christmas, she would serve roast pig accompanied by many other wonderful delicacies that she would prepare under the expert guidance of her father, Peter Glezos. For Easter, she would offer the best tripe soup that would be followed by the traditional roast lamb, expertly seasoned and decorated by Steve.
Her mother, Mary, and Peter were always present and I never tired of hearing the story, over and over, of how Peter secretly wed the beautiful Mary, who was an unacceptable "foreigner." And it never ceased to amaze me how Peter Glezos, of Naxos, was so proud of his origins that he knew every village and beach on the island even though he had never once visited Greece.
At these gatherings, Irene would display a class and tidiness that she inherited from her grandmother, Irene Glezos(Glezaina) from Naxos. Irene was religiousely devoted to her Greek grandmother, whose name and grace she inherited, but she also cultivated a long and close relationship with the cousins from her father’s family. However, it is that matriarchal figure of Irene Glezos, her gracious grandmother, that remains engraved in my mind as a result of the narratives related to me by my Aunt.
Irene managed to create a perfect balance in her life between Canada and Greece. In Montreal, she was the cosmopolitan teacher of cosmetology who had many friends and entertained in a Canadian way, albeit without forgetting the Greek traditions. In Lefkada, which she frequented much more often after her retirement, she would enjoy her wonderful home, always hosting acquaintances from back home. There, she would transform into the consummate “Lefkaditissa” and enjoy her many local friends.
Irene leaves behind her beloved husband, Steve, who stood heroically by her side until the very end and her daughter, Maria, who, in turn, also inherited the tidiness and the openness of character of her mother.
In Lefkada, she leaves her beloved granddaughter, Stephanie, who grew up spending her summers there with her grandparents. Today, Stephanie is married to Sotiris Kirolivanos and they have a wonderful daughter, Violetta.
Irene, I will always remember your agility, your enthusiasm and your zest for life. I will always remember you “YOUNG” as you never grew old, even while passing the martyrdom of the pains of illness.
Give my warmest greetings to my "butterfly," Konstantina, and to my parents. And kiss Mary and Peter for me.
Til we meet in the heavens,