Anastasia Drougas Couchell

February 10, 2018

As her 100th birthday approached in 2013, Anastasia Couchell jokingly quipped “God has forgotten me here”!  Alas, the beloved 104-year-old matriarch of the Couchell family was called home on Saturday, February 10, 2018.

Born to Greek immigrants Panagioti and Paraskevi (Boukidis) Drougas on June 3,1913, in Evanston, Illinois, she enjoyed her early years in her father’s candy store (the Candy Kitchen). Her idyllic American life ended in 1920 when her parents took her and little sister, Georgia, to their native village of Karyae (Arahova) near Sparta, Greece.  Six-year-old Anastasia cried for six months, threatening to return to America with anyone who would take her! With time she adapted, teaching herself how to sew her own dresses by age ten, and choosing to work hard to thrive in her new provincial environment. 

 On September 17, 1933 she married young entrepreneur John P. Koutsogeorgas (Couchell). Together they built a successful restaurant, The Athenian Taverna, while welcoming babies Peter, Emily, and George into the world. In 1940, WWII ushered in five years of hardship and horror. Nazi soldiers emptied their home of every provision as Anastasia and her three young children watched in disbelief. They were among the women and children marched to the town square to face a firing squad; mercifully, they were saved by the timely arrival of the International Red Cross.  John suffered a near fatal gunshot wound. The final affront was the torching of their beloved village, after which only the stone shell of their home and business remained. Stoically, Anastasia made mattresses from potato sacks and corn husks to resettle her family in their burned-out home. It was there, as WWII ended and civil war began, that she gave birth to daughter Vivian. Through it all Anastasia had been a quiet source of strength for her husband, but now she boldly insisted they leave their dangerously turbulent village for Sparta and ultimately, America.

On November 30, 1949, the ship Nea Ellas entered New York Harbor where Lady Liberty welcomed Anastasia and her family back to America! Sponsored by her older brother, Nicholas Pann (Drougas) of Chatham, Ontario, they briefly settled there before moving to Charlotte, NC, in 1951. They soon embodied the American Dream, the entire family working together in their own establishment, Johnny’s Grill on Monroe Road, while living in a new home a block away. They also preserved their faith and heritage, with Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church serving as the center of their spiritual and social life. Those were “HAPPY DAYS”, indeed!

After their children took flight, Anastasia and John returned to Greece in 1962 to restore their home and care for her father.  While there, she served as president of the local YWCA and its preschool. Upon returning to Charlotte in 1967, she worked as a highly valued seamstress in Belk alterations until an “irreversible” heart condition forced her to retire in 1973. Never one to be idle, she crocheted her way through a long convalescence, producing countless bedspreads for relatives and friends. As her health improved, she and John enjoyed trips to Greece and cared for their many grandchildren.

Their happy retirement ended with John’s sudden passing in February of 1986, just two months after the loss of their beloved daughter, Emily. Anastasia summoned the same indomitable spirit which had carried her through so many previous struggles. She lived the next 30 years in service to her ever-growing family by sewing, gardening, cooking, and baking an endless supply of koulourakia (to the delight of her grandchildren).  She enjoyed preparing her signature melomakarona (Greek honey cookies) for church fundraisers as well as sewing aprons for the Greek festival. She immersed herself in Christian writings and in her prized book of botanicals, from which she earnestly dispensed advice for using plant-based remedies. After all, dandelion greens had helped her overcome cardiovascular disease!

Though shy by nature, Anastasia knew no stranger.  Throughout the years her duplex served as a temporary haven for many young Greek families, grandchildren, students, and priests.  She became their resident Yiayia or surrogate mother.  Her empathy, grace, warmth, and devotion to the well-being of everyone she touched became legendary.   Her sense of humor, childlike inquisitiveness, pure joy, and forgiving nature, kept her forever young.  Possessing many “gifts of the Spirit”, she humbly gave God the credit for them.  Indeed, her most uttered phrase was "Δόξα το θεό", "Glory to God". To Him be the glory for blessing her family with her presence, love, and wisdom for so many years! 

“We love you ‘Big Yiayia’!  Hallelujah!”

Anastasia is survived by her devoted children Peter (Faye), George (Helen), Presvytera Vivian Bacalis (Fr. Nicholas); and son-in-law John Crambes. She will be lovingly remembered by her grandchildren Lea Crambes Tsahakis (Deacon Paul), Ana Crambes Sistare (Douglas), Katrina Bacalis Kellen (Bradley), John G. Couchell (Crista), John P. Couchell, Anastasia Couchell Petrou (Petro), Anastasia Bacalis Stonestreet (John), Christopher (Jacquelyn), Emily and Stephanie Couchell;  great grandchildren John Paul (Stephanie), Nicholas, and James (Sara Maude) Tsahakis; Matthew, Luke, and Emily Sistare; Elena and Sophia Couchell; Maria and Diana Couchell; Catherine, Peter, and Elizabeth Couchell; Nicholas and Noah Kellen; Sofia, Ariadne, and Luke Stonestreet; and great great grandson Pavlos Tsahakis. She is also survived by dear niece Vivian Pann and nephew Paul Athanaelos, as well as many more treasured nieces and nephews in America and Greece.

The family is eternally thankful for “angel” caregivers Maria Nasios, Mila Chickering, Rhonda Gordon, Xanthi Hondros and Anna Volokhovich; for her beloved doctor, Pete Copsis and grandson Deacon Dr. Paul Tsahakis for ministering to both her physical and spiritual needs so lovingly. Also, our sincere gratitude to the wonderful ladies from Hospice for their comfort focused care.

Funeral services will be Saturday morning, February 17, 2018 at 11:30 at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral.  The family will receive friends at Saint Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church from 5:30 until 7:00 Friday evening, February 16, 2018 with a Trisagion following at 7:00 PM.  Interment will follow the funeral service in Evergreen Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church, 5108 Kuykendall Road, Charlotte, NC 28270 or Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 600 East Boulevard, Charlotte, NC 28203.

Arrangements are in the care of Kenneth Poe Funeral & Cremation Service, 1321 Berkeley Ave., Charlotte, NC 28204; (704) 641-7606. Online condolences can be shared at www.kennethpoeservices.com.

 

 

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  • Fr. Seraphim Dedes

    May our good Lord Jesus Christ grant Yiayia Couchell rest and eternal life!
    I enjoyed living next door to her for my first year and a half in Charlotte and got to know her as the gracious, caring lady she was.
    Sadly, I will be unable to attend the funeral services, due to family obligations out of town.
    My condolences to Pete, George, and Vivian, and the entire family. Thank you for sharing your mother with us.
    With love in Christ,
    Fr. Seraphim Dedes

  • Tina Sotiropoulos

    I met Anastasia 35years ago . I also met her husband at an engagement. My grandfather Vasilios Vlachos is from Arahova. She was always humble and aslwayz spoke and shook my hand. She will be missed dearly!

  • Jim& Maria Stasios

    “Everlasting be her memory!”

    We extend our sincere sympathy to the entire Couchell Family on the Falling Asleep in the Lord of your beloved Anastasia. Doxa to Theo! “Glory to God” for her life, her love for God, her love for her family and her love for life.

    “May her memory be eternal!”

    Jim & Maria Stasios
    Wilmington, NC

  • Maria Collias

    A beautiful soul...a perfect obituary...Ζοι σε μας... Mystery solved... we are cousins...Θεία Τασία’ς mother and my mother were from the Βουκιδης family....My mother loved θεία Τασία & her sister Κουμπαρά Γιοργια & was Paul (Πολύβιος) Athanaelos ‘s Νουνα....

  • Irma Cohen

    May God rest her Sould and keep her in His Kingdom!But Her memories stay with us on this earth forever! My most condolences to Her Family!

  • Alex Leventis

    How sad to see the world lose such a kind, gracious, wonderful lady! She will be greatly missed.
    She helped my mother get over my brother's tragic death many years ago.
    We will always be thankful to this "bigger than life" lady and wish there was some way to provide some comfort to her family.
    and all the people whose lives she touched.
    Alex Leventis
    Vancouver, Washington

  • Laura Nixon

    This was a lady beyond words - her warmth and caring shone through to everyone. All were loved and special to her! Heaven will be brightened with her presence. May the Lord keep her soul in His arms till we meet again. May her memory be eternal! Αιώνια η μνήμη!

  • Bessie Demopoulos Christophilakis

    My sincere sympathy to all the Couchell family, you are all in my thoughts and prayers. A beautifully written tribute to your family matriarch, a truly truly phenomenal woman. I am so honored to say I knew this special lady. May her memory be eternal and `Zoi Se Sas`.

  • Mary Alexis

    My deepest sympathy to the entire Couchell family on the passing of sweet, dear "Mrs." Couchell. Though I knew her for a very short time it felt as if she were part of my life from the beginning... Indeed, a most kind, gracious and lovely lady who will be missed by many. God rest her sole!

  • Anne Conover

    I met Mrs. Couchell when Sts. Constantine and Helen were remodeling the church ( Richmond VA), and felt priveleged to hear of her amazing life. Thank you Presvetera Vivian for sharing her story with me. I'm inspired to live my life as full as your dear mother lived her many years. May her Memory be Eternal and our condolences to her family.

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