Greek returns to honor his American family

PAT FRIDGEN
Theo Kyriakidhes and his wife Linda May Dove were familiar faces during Old Home Week. The Athens, Greece couple was in Greencastle July 31 to Aug. 11, taking in many activities, including the official OHW picture in Center Square on Aug. 4. Theo, as he was known to the many people he encountered, visited friends from the Class of 1960, met with a local family that had taken him under their wing as a result of a World War II care package, and spoke to the congregation of Greencastle Presbyterian Church in memory of Paul and Flora Hickman.

Theofilos Kyriakidhes, Athens, Greece, probably came the farthest for Old Home Week, and he did it for the intended reason Greencastle holds a triennial celebration. He wanted to reconnect with old friends, including friends who became his family in 1958.

The story starts in 1943, when Kyriakidhes was 3 and his sister was six months. Their mother died of a common illness, due to lack of medical care. Their father died while in the Resistance fighting the Germans. The orphans were taken in by their grandmother, who washed, ironed and cleaned houses to support them. The communist-led Greek Civil War decimated the country from 1942-49.

"This unimaginable situation was somehow relieved by many American families who started to send little parcels of food to families like ours," Kyriakidhes said.

They received food, clothing and toys. When Kyriakidhes was seven, he had learned to write well enough that his grandmother wanted to thank an American family whose address they found in a package. "Theo, take pencil and paper and sit down," she told him, then dictated a letter.

That began a bond between the two families that has lasted 63 years.

Eventually Paul and Flora Hickman, who farmed on Clay Hill Road, offered to pay for Kyriakidhes' education at an American-Greek school in another town. And in 1958 they invited him to spend a year in Greencastle, attending the high school. They and their children, Anne, Peter, John and Mark, welcomed him as one of their own, he said. The students at school extended open arms too. "I have sentimental memories of that time," he said.

The year gave him the parental figures he missed so much. He called the Hickmans Daddy and Mother.

"In my misfortune to lose my parents, I was lucky in other ways," said Kyriakidhes, 70. "Greencastle is a very emotional place for me. It brings back memories of times when I was overflowing with happiness and excitement."

He went back to Greece to finish in its school system, then had a career teaching English in private schools and colleges, and owned his own business. He married Linda May Dove and they had two daughters. Today they have five grandchildren.

Kyriakidhes dreamed of coming back and with assistance from Sue and Charlie Eckstine, who offered their home, and also Nancy Rice, who helped with the logistics of a trip that began May 27 and also took in England, New York and Virginia, it became possible. He visited his Hickman siblings, as well, and spoke at a service Aug. 8 at Greencastle Presbyterian Church, which he attended with the family in 1958. He honored the memory of Paul and Flora Hickman. Those are also the names of his sister's children.

The visit to a small town in Pennsylvania left a large impression on Kyriakidhes. "This small, seemingly insignificant place, it is definitely the most significant place for me.'

Theo Kyriakidhes and Anne Hickman during the year he lived with her family.