Demetra Annos Kanaras, matriarch of the family behind the Red Fox Restaurant in Bel Air and the Box Hill Pizzeria in Abingdon, died Monday, July 1, of breast cancer at her Bel Air home. She was 74.
Both Mrs. Kanaras and her husband, George Kanaras, emigrated from Sparta, Greece, but met in Wilmington, De. They married 54 years ago and settled in Bel Air, where the family, including George's brother, John Kanaras, and their cousin, Pete Macrides, were the original owners of The Red Fox.
The Red Fox opened in 1954, and the original building burned down in 1972. The Kanaras family quickly rebuilt, and the restaurant became a famous meeting spot for Harford County's business and political leaders.
The family sold the Red Fox in 1987. Three years earlier, Mrs. Kanaras had stepped away from the Red Fox to help her sons, Thomas G. Kanaras and Christian G. Kanaras, open Box Hill Pizzeria.
"She came there for three months just to get us started, and she ended up staying for 30 years," Thomas Kanaras said. "We got her on loan from Dad and she never went back."
Thomas Kanaras said his mother "was a lady who could outwork a 20-year-old," working as a server and hostess among her many roles at the restaurant.
"She was an old-school restaurateur—they don't make them like her any more," Thomas Kanaras said. "She knew your name, you knew her name, and she made you feel comfortable."
Once the Red Fox changed owners (today it is called Main Street Tower), some old customers took comfort in seeing Mrs. Kanaras at Box Hill Pizzeria.
"The old-timers like me that remember her from the Red Fox, it was another familiar face that we could say 'hi' to—just a very pleasant gracious lady," Todd Holden, a former regular at the Red Fox, said.
Mrs. Kanaras was diagnosed with breast cancer last July, and worked at the pizza shop until a month ago. Thomas Kanaras said his family will never forget the compassionate care from the staff at Johns Hopkins, and she passed away Monday surrounded by her family and grandchildren.
Mrs. Kanaras enjoyed traveling, typically spending several weeks each year in Aruba with her husband and frequenting Ocean City. She was also active in her parish, Saint Mary Magdalene & Markella Greek in Darlington, and enjoyed cooking, entertaining and playing poker.
She is survived by her husband, George; two sons, Thomas, of Bel Air, and Christian and his wife, Margaret, of Fallston; two sisters, Catherine Annos Nichols of Baltimore and Voula Papadakos of Sparta, Greece; and grandchildren Nico, Alexis, Kristen, and Nicole.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday, July 3 at Saint Demetrios Church in Baltimore. Contributions can be made to Saint Mary Magdalene & Markella Greek Orthodox Church, 3714-3716 Dublin Road, Darlington, Md., 21034.