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OF THE DEATH OF EFFIE SOTER
By Nick Soter
I am saddened to announce the death of our mother Effie today, about an hour ago, in New York at the Amsterdam House, where she has been living since October, 2008. She died peacefully, without any trauma or stress, after a few weeks of reduced food intake and general system shut down. As you know, she had not been well for quite some time, and so it is hoped that she can finally find some peace. I am not able to reach all of you by telephone, and so with my apologies please accept this email.
My brothers Tom and Peter attended to our mother, and visited her very often in her last months, and made sure she was comfortable and well cared for. I was last able to visit her in January, and I spoke to her in Greek, which she may have understood.
And so it is for all of us, the circle of life completes itself. Our mother had a wonderful life, lived it fully, was married to a fabulous man, left three boys to carry on, and will be remembered for her wit, smile, strength of character, fortitude. She was a true Maniatissa in all meanings of the term.
We plan to have a gathering in her honor in New York the weekend of September 9. Further details will be sent when we have the plans in place. My family and I will be in New York that weekend and will be at this gathering.
May she rest in peace.
EFFIE SOTER: MEMORIES, COMMENTS, VIEWS
My mother was was smart, and funny, and ready to have a good time as well as work hard. She put in so many hours at Greek Island, I was always amazed at her stamina and fortitude. And she always had time for us kids, particularly when we were younger.
Of course she had her troubles, and the alcohol took the place of work when we no longer had Greek Island, which was hard for us all. And after that, the terrible disease she suffered from, although you could always tell that she fought it as best she could, trying to keep whatever part of herself alive and available, even if it was only to play cards with George and family. Our last trip to Greece together with her was in the Olympic year of 2004, and I still remember vividly sitting with her under an umbrella at the beach in Athens at Faliron, at Alimos Beach, and we were commenting on the various people around us, and the boats in the water, and swimmers, and how some people were so fat (she didn't like fat people, as you know), and I remember thinking this may be the last time I ever have a fresh conversation with her, where we were actually speaking of things in the moment, and not just answering her endless questions about where we were going, what we were going to do, etc. And I think that was the last time I did that. And she also asked the waiter at the nearby pizza restaurant "how come you speak Greek so well?" To which he replied, "because I am Greek," and she said, "really, are we in Greece?"
Though we may expect bad news, is is hard when it happens.
Effie! Yes she was quite a person, indeed a real maniatissa, she loved and hated with equal strength, sweet but unforgiving at the same time, but, oh yes, she was a good person. She loved her family, the immediate and the extended and showed it in her own way; yes she had a full life with a lot of people around and I am sure she will remembered by all.
For me she was a friend that I accepted with all her idiosyncrasies for her good mind, her straightforwardness, her hospitality, her humor; and she will remain liKe that in my mind and in my heart. We are all faced with the end of the road but to have had a full life as she did and leave behind decent loving people is an accomplishment. You had a good mother and a good father. Na esaste esiS kala na tous themosaste. With all my love to all of you.
Stephen Green-Armytage & Judy Kinnersley
Yes, indeed, the end of a long era, and all our sympathies for the loss of your mother. We know that there had already been a semi-good-bye a while ago, and that the death of George was then the loss that made you no longer sons, but it must be very emotional knowing that you will never see your mother again.
Fortunately our most persistent memories of Effie are of the cheerful hostess, cook and card-player of many great evenings on Riverside Drive. And of course Effie in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s was a wonderful person, with her own style of humor and her famous forthright personality. She and George were as close as we could get to having New York parents, with you guys as our younger brothers.. Now we are all orphans.
We would like you to know how much we admired the way the four male Soters dealt with the gradual loss of the wife and mother that you had loved for so many years. So thank you for that lesson in patience, grace and understanding as you dealt with having this changing and ultimately different person in your family.
And thanks for the advance notice of the family gathering in September. We will certainly aim to be there for the event, and we look forward to seeing the latest versions of Effie’s four granddaughters.
Phillip Keithley Syers
Thanks for sending, I particularly enjoyed what you wrote the day she passed. Wish I could have met her earlier, marvelous lady.
Childhood friend of Tom's
The passing of a great lady: My best friend Tom Soter's mom, Effie, died yesterday, at the age of 90. She was a great matriarch of a wonderful Greek-American family. Here's to you, Effie.
She was an amazing woman and I have such wonderful memories of her.
Paul and I are so sorry to hear about your mother''s passing. We know how close you had been, and how she and you father had supported and enjoyed you and your crazy friends (I count myself here) in everything. Your mother and father were some of the most gracious, welcoming people I've ever met. I always thought she was very beautiful. I wish you and your family the comfort of having each other and your sweet memories.
Childhood friend of Tom's
I am terribly sorry to hear this. Hang in there. And take it easy for a bit, these things take time.
We are all so sorry about your loss. I empathize deeply having lost my mother last September. She had developed dementia during the last months. It was like losing her twice.
Effie's spirit is finally free.
I was heartbroken to hear about your mom.
Friend of Nick’s
Nick: Oh Nick - Ann and I saddened to read of your mother's death I remember her from her many visits to SF and even staying in our flat with your father when we were away. I even saw her once in New York when your brother had that bookstore in Chelsea. She sold me a book. You had a long vigil, as her last years were difficult for all. We send you and your family love and all condolences in the days ahead. Sometime tell us what Maniatissa means.
Tom: I was most moved by the stories of your mother written after her recent death. Then I read the one about your Dad. I remember them both though we met only fleetingly when they visited Nick and Dora, Eva and Zoe. You came out to Zoe's HS graduation a few weeks ago. Ann and I send you and your family our condolences. We will remember them in the Prayers of the People at our church on Sunday.
Tom: Thinking of you and your brothers so much. I have known you all for so long...what, 36 years? Holy mackerel! You have always amazed me, your wit, your creativity, your talent and how you have created a place for them to flourish. I know your parents were so proud and delighted with you. You all were lucky:)
I loved your Mom and fortunately never married Nick so she loved me!!! (just kidding, I know she loved Dora!)
Anyway, I send you my love and you are in my thoughts. Please extend my love to Pete, as I have no way of contacting him. I just called the Congdons, too. I will see you in September at her celebration. I will have to work on my Effie impression!
Hey Nick, So sorry to hear about your mom. I have only been able to keep up with you guys through my parents, which was a big mistake on my part, as they, even in better and clearer days, have never been known as the kings of communication. Your folks were like visiting royalty when they came to town and were always a delight. Your mom so regal and your dad, full of hilarious stories like some Greek Mark Twain. When I think back on that whole generation of aunts and uncles from George and Effie to Alex, Chrissie, Ellie, Dick and my dad and mom...It was so beautiful to be witness to such a hip and modern bunch of people. To be around such funny and talented people all drinking and smoking and playing the piano and dancing and never censoring us kids from their conversations or fun like so many of my friends non-Greek and much, well, whiter families were. I feel so lucky to have been a part of it and although its sad to hear of your moms passing it reminds me of how lucky we all were to have such good, kind and highly evolved people to grow up with. Much luck and love to you and your family, Nick.
Don't make me cry in the middle of the day. Wonderful piece. Funny, on target (from what I know), and moving.
Childhood friend of Tom’s[[wysiwyg_imageupload:488:]]
I'd like to express my sincere condolences to you and your entire family; May she rest in peace.
Alta Ann Parkins Morris
It is an honor to be notified by whatever means. Nick, your addition of photos was a nice surprise and softened, not what could be called the surprise of hearing that Effie had died, but the unavoidable startle of the news with its mix of memory and sadness and also amusement, brought on by the way you fitted Maniatissa into the sentence.
For an explicable but not important reason I was thinking of Gytheon and those submerged buildings in the harbor when I found the message.
I knew the shop and George and Effie from about 1963 when a weaver-acquaintance said they were having a party and we should go. It was just after my first trip to Greece where I had learned that endearing Greek items, which could make good gifts, existed only in the spot where I first saw them. Who knew that if I didn't decide then and there to buy the brass bell or the horn?)-Handled knife, I would never find it again in any other part of the country. After '63 I could usually find it at Greek Island but I had to wear my disguise (really) of undisturbed calm to face Effie.
For almost ten years I was a customer off and on and introduced friends and relatives to the shop. I never knew how to respond to her but that was not a deterrent to visiting there. In 1971 came my Mani book and selling it at the shop and then came Allan and my deciding to ask Effie and George to dinner. Having some of her "shyness" myself I needed another couple, Allan's partner and his wife, I always felt I could use help through dinner's conversation, (I didn't know them well, later the partnership began to sour and they were never here again). Allan changed over the years but in 1974 he mostly balked at having company and was happy about it afterward. This time was no exception and he loved George and Effie. They stayed behind when the others left and as they departed Effie said to me, "You really are nice, after all." At the time I still didn't know what a badge of honor it was to hear those words.
I know these notes are supposed to be short, but saying more is also a way of remaining connected to Effie and to both and to all of you a little while longer.
The pictures were a surprise. Even though I knew about Worcester, I still had never seen or thought of them in a New England?) setting. It felt incongruous! I suppose the Meteora? Mystra? Crete?) picture was sometime in the '60s but I almost couldn't recognize Effie and it seemed that those added years of living with George and with you had made her much more beautiful-- the pictures in the Greek Island catalog, the snapshots of parties....
Thanks very much for writing, I love and admire you all and your values and send you syllipitiria and sympathy and agapi.
Tom-- Your Memories of Effie, like a documentary with pictures, was just what I wanted to see. This writing seemed more eloquent, whether true or not, than what we read of her in 2009, maybe because last week was the exact time when it needed to be read. Or maybe you had polished it for the occasion. Allan should have read it. You and Peter and Nick are an improbable social work reversal, comforting us when you were bereft.
Friend of Alta Ann Parkins
After reading "Big Deal: Memories of My Mother"
Thanks, Alta Ann. I just read the second two (and your contribution to the first one) and looked at the pictures. What a lovely woman she was when she was younger, what a gallery of images from beautiful, joyous youth to toothless age. And what wonderful writing. Thanks again.
David C. Anderson
Friend of Alta Ann Parkins
After reading "Big Deal: Memories of My Mother"
So what is Maniatissa? A woman of the Mani? My Mother's phrase that described a Swedish friend, Hillie "she would not hold to a word"? I remember the catalogues coming. Jane had some clothing, jewelery and drinking glasses, scent in a bottle. There was a shop on Arlington Place on the north side of Chicago. A kind of strange location for a shop -- off the beaten path yet a neighborhood place. I loved reading about Effie.
Friend of Alta Ann Parkins
After reading "Big Deal: Memories of My Mother"
Thanks for sending me the link. It was so moving to read all the writings and see the photos. I remember meeting Effie and thinking she was quite formidable, even in her Alzheimer's state. I read Tom's memories of his mother. He writes so beautifully really bringing her to life. His description stayed with me and I know I'll be thinking of her, along with my mother in the weeks to come.
I am so very sad to hear that Effie has died. From what you said she died quietly and, as you also said, one's hope is that after such a long illness she finds some peace. You must be really thankful Effie was well cared for at Amsterdam House. The sorrow is for those left behind, and in a way we can now fully mourn her loss. Effie was a terrific friend, our friendship meant so much to me and she and your family brought me joy throughout my years in New York. I will miss Effie so much.
Brother of Dora, Effie’s daughter-in-law
Thank you Nick to have the blessing of having you and your wonderful family in our lives, we have many unforgettable memories shared with your loving family and we will be forever grateful. May God bless and look after your parents!
Cousin of Dora, Effie’s daughter-in-law
Hey Nick. With love and respect for you and your sweet family I send you Peace for a life well lived:} Thank you for letting me know your Mother and father they where one of a kind!! I shall always remember those diners at your mom and dad's in NYC they where great! Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you and your family at this time you are all in my prayers.
I wish peace and love to you and your family. That's a beautiful passage. She sounded like a pretty terrific lady.
I'll never forget the wonderful parties your parents had at their magnificent place - your mom's delicious cooking, the poker games with your dad, the beautiful apartment. Effie was a gracious hostess, a great cook, and a delight to be with. SNI will never be the same without your parents' smiling faces in the front row. Truly, it's the end of an era. I'll be thinking of you and your family this week - what a great thing to have such a close and loving family as the Soters! My very best to both of your brothers.
I was so sad when I heard the news. Effie was so great. Feisty yet very sweet. I treasure the times she pinched or kissed my cheek after a show and would say, "You're a good boy." Jen and I send love and condolences to you and your family during this difficult time.
I wanted to send my deepest sympathies and condolences. I know that if she was anything like you, she was an amazing person.
I knew from Robert that Effie was not well. This news is, as you expressed, the completion of the circle. My memories of Effie are rich with images of her smile, her wit and the ice cubes she put in her beer. My condolences to you and Peter and Tom.
Friend of Nick’s
So sorry to hear about your mother passing. Although she, as you said, has found peace, for you I know this is going to be somewhat painful. I remember when my mom died, and I don't like to think about how much that hurt. It's good that you have a big and wonderful family around you to support you. So let them. Zoe se'mas as we say, and have said it for centuries -- well, millennia, actually -- because it is a truth that has kept our people together through rough times. As always, anything you need me to do that will help, please let me know.
I just got the news from Tom C. that your mom passed away. I'm so sorry to hear that. She was an indelible personality in my mind from the days when I used to hang with you on Riverside Drive. My dad remembers her (and your dad) fondly from his visit and the famous "may I take a picture from your window" incident. I'm sure this is going to be a difficult time for you. Just know that I'll be thinking of you. I'm sure we all will.[[wysiwyg_imageupload:498:]]
Thank you for letting me know. Effie looks so young and chic in the photos (George too). I am glad she died peacefully. I knew how ill she was, but still I didn't expect your email and was sad to hear the news. Effie was my mother's only family here in New York, and I know how sad Alkmini would be if she understood. I feel as if a piece of Alkmini, her world, is gone too. My heartfelt condolences to you and your family. I look forward to seeing you Sept. 9.
I am so sorry for the passing away of Effie, she was in fact a remarkable woman. I know that in the past couple of years you no longer had her consciously present and that in some way you had said goodbye to the Effie that traveled, cooked fabulous meals, played cards with her grandchildren, and asked Jacqueline Onasis what had taken her so long to visit the shop .but the loss of ones mother is a profound event no matter how it comes to us. I am glad that I was able to know her and share some "who is she" time with Effiem for whatever reason I truly enjoyed her. I feel privileged to have been invited to be present with your family and I know that this marks a new cycle for you, Tommy and Peter. Nick, you are now the Patriarch,.
Yesterday on our walk Dora and I talked at length of Effie's condition and her passing and what that may mean to you in particular and to your brothers. It was a beautiful day, clear, without clouds, the water was still and brilliant I wish this new chapter in your life embody this day.
I’m really sad to hear this news but glad that Effie went peacefully. This sad moment and the photos you sent bring back a lifetime of memories at 404 as children and later when I was working in NYC and staying at your parents place… as sooo many people did over the years. Effie had a warm smile but she was a tough lady and she could be quite cutting with her lightning fast mind and keen wit. She always gave me the smile and saved the cut for others… J I have such wonderful, loving memories of her fabulous cooking, the amazing dinners together with all of the classic Soter stories and of all of the other parties, events and just hanging out playing boggle – which was no easy trick with your incredibly well-educated/high IQ parents.
I was sad to hear about your Mom. Cliché maybe, but it really does feel like the end of an era. Effie was always very kind to me, and all of the Soter clan occupy big swaths of my childhood memories. I remember staying with you all on our way to Greece, in your labyrinthine way cool apartment…with Effie cooking these giant hamburgers and ruffling our heads and saying, “how you doing kid?”, and later, showing me the photo albums of family trips she’d carefully put together with her funny narratives all through. I remember her buying me little gifts...my favorite was a ring with a secret compartment…perfect for a little girl who loved rings and spy games. I’m glad we’ll be able to be together in September, Peter, Tommy, Nick. Meanwhile my love to each of you.
Val and Hugh de Quetteville
I remember playing cards with her while the others were swimming and she was very funny in her way as her jokes had again a different sense of humour, always honest and sometimes tough because she was real - always real. I do believe that we never realized how important her role was in the family as George was always the tip of the iceberg while Effie the solid silent base.
Now, missing her, we all know and feel how important she was in our lives......
Word of your mother’s passing comes to me at a time in which much thoughts are being given to the question of what makes a good parent. It’s clear to me you have a far stronger than most appreciation of your parents, and I take that as a reflection on Effie’s great mothering. In thinking of what I know of her, my mind instantly went to the many late October jams in which she baked you a birthday cake. “I liked her cake” were the first words that came to my mind, and I started to think of the word “cake” as emblematic of all the wonderful, loving things a mother does. Attending the jam week after week – CAKE Keeping a tschoke-filled house – CAKE. Warmly smiling, encouraging a brood of improvisers – CAKE. And I liked her cake.
I know that in some ways, it seems like you lost your mother long ago…still, this final parting is difficult. I picture your parents together now, pain free and at peace, perhaps sipping wine and talking improv! Hey, you never know!
Maitland and I belatedly heard about your beloved mother. Know that her presence, especially hose times in the audience, brightened lives.
Robert and Pirjo Gardiner
Pirjo and I have just heard from carol the sad news of the death of dear Effie. You and Peter and Nick and all your family are so very much in our thoughts. We Gardiners all remember Effie as such a warm and caring person and, above all, as the mother of your family. We send you all our love and deepest sympathy.
I am sorry for the loss of your mother. I will always remember her and George at the improv shows. She loved you all and had a rich, love-filled life.
The Jacob Family
The Jacob family at 404 Riverside Drive loved the Soter family and miss Effie and George very much. Heir parties were always great fun. Thanks to you, we met our neighbors.
I was very saddened by the news of Effie’s demise. When I saw her last, she looked peaceful. Effie was a great hostess, friend, and wonderful companion. We with George and my husband Vachel spent many wonderful times exchanging meals, going to movies and enjoying lively conversations. I miss those times and will miss Effie very much.
Thanks for sending me the card about Effie. I was so sorry in many ways to receive it. For me, the end of a great friendship – Effie and George – whom I shall never forget – all those wonderful years living and working and being together.
The Greek Island shop, the trips to Greece, the wonderful dinners in that remarkable apartment on the west side (404). How can I forget? You have all been my family away from Boston, and part of my life. Indeed, Effie and George were in my home. Sitting at that guest table at one of those Greek dinners and watching Effie with that smile as she watched us with such love and feelings of affection. And that music. What fun.
Working with George on several assignments was a joy. How could I have been so lucky? And all you guys wandering in and out pf my life so well. I didn’t want it to ever end.
How sorry that I won’t be able to be in New york City on Saturday, but my thoughts will be with you. I raise my glass to you all.
thanks for having me at your remembrance of effie. i was a little under the weather, been having back problems, but i'm so glad i came. amazing turn-out. awesome film, tom. bouzouki brilliance. that so many turned out to pay homage to memories in many cases 20, 30, 40 or more years old is testament to her magnetism, yes, but also, & most movingly, to the values you all continue to espouse and enact, the value of family of all kinds, big tent, open door, and of trust and keeping in touch and remembering and observing and eating and drinking and being together. the sacred value of a good party. chris' roar speaks for itself and speaks volumes and echoes down the ages. i'm sure she heard it ten thousand times already. i'm only sorry mara was unable to be there. she actually instinctively throws a pretty decent 'soter party' (i do believe it deserves a dictionary entry). and me, well, i try and pull my weight. thanks for the invite and the ouzo and what we hebrews call ruach, spirit. the queen is dead. long may she reign. & king george too of course.
Childhood friend of Nick’s
Sorry to hear and safe journeys and blessings to her.
Please accept our heartfelt condolences. In no small way we feel as if we have lost a much beloved member of our family.
Joe & Mikel Witte
Our prayers go out to you and your families on the passing of dear Effie. We remember so well her wonderful hospitality and fabulous. Greek food at the Soter home. You were certainly all blessed to have had such caring and wonderful parents.