Vasiliki “Vasi” Vlahakis passed away peacefully in her home on December 23, 2021. She lived an active, loving, and independent life, until the very end.
Vasi was born on March 17, 1931 in Portland, Oregon to Leonidas “Louis” and Areti (Rigas) Vlahakis, who had emigrated from the village of Kohylou, on the island of Andros in Greece. Vasi’s parents were part of a large group of Greeks, who immigrated to Oregon from Andros, who mostly settled in Westport and Clifton, where Vasi spent many summers, surrounded by her extended family and by her parent’s fellow “Andriotes”. Vasi often shared with great fondness the stories and history of the Greek Immigrants in Oregon, and she stressed the importance of preserving their history and contributions. For Vasi, her Greek Culture and her Greek Heritage were at the very essence of her being.
Vasi grew up in the Alameda neighborhood in NE Portland. She attended Alameda Elementary School and graduated from Grant High School in 1948. She went on to attend Lewis and Clark College where she graduated with a BA in Art. Vasi had a great love for the Arts and was an extremely talented canvas painter, commissioning art. As a young adult, she loved fashion and throughout her life this love would continue as she was always dressed exquisitely with vibrant colors that always complemented her beautiful blue eyes.
Louis and Areti owned ‘Vlahakis Grocery’ store in Old Town Portland. Growing up, she helped her parents run the store, and later after her father’s death, she ran the store together with her mother. Vasi was well known in the Old Town business community and was active in the Old Town Community Association where she served as a board member, helping to advocate for the many small family-owned businesses in Old Town.
From the time that Vasi was an infant, she was a member of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland, Oregon, and from a young age, Louis and Areti helped instill in Vasi a deep love for the Greek Orthodox Church and the Greek Orthodox Faith. There was no end to Vasi’s decades of involvement and commitment in the Greek Orthodox Church. Vasi’s passion for her Greek heritage was evident when she volunteered for the first annual Portland Greek Festival in 1952, and then went on to volunteer and serve on the festival board in the years that followed.
Vasi dedicated her life to serving her community, her parish Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, and the Greek Community. She was instrumental in the Mayor and City Council declarations honoring the Portland Greek Festival as an Oregon Heritage tradition. She nurtured relationships with local officials and advocated for the Greek Orthodox Portland community for the preservation of the influence that Greek immigrants had in Portland’s history while encouraging an ongoing relationship between the City of Portland and the present Greek community.
There was no end to Vasi’s dedication to serve; often serving on multiple boards at a time and volunteering her time at every opportunity. Over Vasi’s lifetime, she served what would equate to decades of service on Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral’s parish council in the form of different capacities most notably serving numerous terms as the council President. Many of the other groups and ministries she belonged to included: Lewis and Clark Alumni, Philoptochos (Mary Magdalene/Phoebe Circle), Daughters of Penelope, Seniors Ministry, Holy Trinity Beautification & Design Committee, Hellenic American Cultural Center and Museum (HACCM), Justice and Human Rights Council, Past Parish Presidents, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church Choir, Historian and Archiver of Holy Trinity. In 2008 Vasi was recognized for her outstanding service to the community by the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (Order of AHEPA) when she was the recipient of the Plato Award, AHEPA’s highest honor.
And last, but certainly not least, Vasi was enthusiastically devoted to her large extended family. She loved all of her cousins, nieces and nephews so much that she always made it a point to remember all of their Birthdays, Namedays, and Anniversaries. Vasi took great pleasure in the company of her family. She was always ready to run to her family’s side in support and in return she was deeply loved, respected, and cherished by her entire family.
Vasi lived a life of Humility, Service, Love and Faith. She was well loved and respected by all who had the pleasure of meeting her and working with her. Her loss will be deeply felt for years to come by all of her loving family, godchildren and friends, however, her legacy and contributions to the Portland Greek Orthodox Community and the hearts she touched, will live on for generations.
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