Several weeks ago, Westminster was the focal point of a distinguished assembly of Greek families as folks from all over the country came to town to celebrate the life of Zoe Amprazis Sirinakis, 85, who died on Dec. 29.
Local historian Antigoni Lefteris Ladd was among those at the viewing and funeral. Ladd, a third-generation Greek-American who grew up in Westminster, is researching and writing about the history of the Greek families of Carroll County.
Dr. Dean Griffin, a local retired physician, has been a strong advocate for collecting this research — before too many like Sirinakis leave us.
According to Ladd, the historic Greek families in Carroll County included prominent local names such as Sharkey from northern Turkey, Nickolas from the islands of Rhodes, Samios from Kythira, Sirinakis from Skyros, Papandreu, Bourexis and Haramplus from the Peloponnese peninsula, and the Amprazis, Letras, Lefteris and Pappas families from the mountains of north central Greece.
According to oral tradition, the local Greek families first started to come to Westminster after the financial crisis of 1893 and continued to do so until 1914. Upon arrival, the families started many of the local restaurants.
The late Tula Lefteris and her family owned the City Restaurant and Lefteris Food Market for many years before they retired from the business in the 1980s.
The American Restaurant and Central Restaurant in downtown Westminster were owned by several Greek families.
The Sharkey family owned Sharkey's Cove for 30 years.
I grew up during the 1950s at the corner of Washington Road and Green Street, behind Samios Grocery Store. I have fond memories of the town's local welder, Bob DuVall, bringing me "Harry's hot dogs," from Harry's Lunch, which was started in 1946 by Sirinakis' parents, Harry and Bessie Amprazis, at 54 West Main Street, next to Lefteris' grocery store.
According to information from Sirinakis' son and daughter-in-law, Harry and Rebecca Sirinakis, Zoe Sirinakis was born in Westminster on Sept. 16, 1929, to Vasiliki (Bessie) and Aristidis (Harry) Amprazis.
They told me that, "In 1933, when Zoe was only 4 years old, Harry and Bessie moved back to Greece to live in their hometown of Trikala, in north-central Greece. … the town was occupied first by the Italian army and later by the Germans. Their home became a local command center for the German army…
"Zoe returned to Westminster in 1946, as a teenager … In June 1958, Zoe married a Greek merchant marine, George D. Sirinakis, who joined his new family at Harry's Lunch… In 1959, Zoe and George bought Harry's Lunch from her parents and in July 1976 they moved the restaurant to its present location, 65 West Main St. in Westminster."
A philosopher once said that when an older distinguished member of the community dies, it is like a wing of the local library burning down. Sadly, we can now longer double-check so many dates and facts that Zoe knew off the top of her head.