Penelope Psoras, a homemaker who was the oldest member of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation parish, died of a heart ailment Monday at the Pickersgill Retirement Community. The former Northwood resident was 107.
Born Penelope Paxenos in Ithaca, Greece, she married a Greek-born sailor with U.S. citizenship, Dimitrios Psoras, who brought her to Baltimore. Family members said she remembered arriving in New York harbor aboard the SS Edison in 1926 and landing in winter, where she saw her first snow -- soot-stained.
Her husband, who was born in 1883, had earlier spent 18 months in naval service on the USS Cyclops, shortly before the coal-carrying military vessel disappeared without a trace between Barbados and Baltimore.
She and her husband lived in an apartment at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., above the New Standard Lunch Room restaurant that he owned and operated with his brother-in-law. Mr. Psoras died in 1968.
"She had only two or three years' worth of education in the classroom," said her son, attorney Dennis J. Psoras of Sparks, who was born above the restaurant. "She had a thirst for knowledge, read the Greek newspapers and periodicals, and loved to discuss the medical advice she gleaned."
Her son said that many years ago she began warning against tobacco and fried foods.
Mrs. Psoras was a founding member of the Philoptochos Society, a Greek organization that assists the poor. She was also among the members of the Annunciation parish who walked in 1937 from a small church at Homewood Avenue and Chase Street to their new cathedral quarters near today's Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.
When the parish celebrated its centenary last year, Mrs. Psoras was honored and made the cross-town trip a second time in a shuttle bus.
"She was an inspiration to us," said the Very Rev. Constantine Moralis, the cathedral's dean. "She had a sharp and accurate memory, and was a faithful person who loved her church and her family."
Mrs. Psoras insisted that her children get all schooling they could.
"She had a large wooden stirring spoon that, when not used in the kitchen, was her spanking motivator," her son said. "As children we preferred to stay home when it rained or snowed. The mere threat to get the kootala, a wooden spoon, was all the encouragement we needed to grab our books and run."
In 1945, Mrs. Psoras received a certificate from Polytechnic Institute for her perfect attendance in an evening citizenship course.
Mrs. Psoras spent hours in her kitchen, preparing Greek dishes and making pastry and baked goods, which she often shared with neighbors, friends and relatives.
"She was a natural actress with an uncanny memory, wit and mind. She could imitate or mimic relatives, friends, or anyone she chose," her son said. "She could also recall and recite poetry or parables in the ancient Greek language."
She revisited Greece in the 1960s but was more happy to return home to America, her son said.
"She was a strong swimmer, and her love was to get beyond the breakers at Ocean City and stay in for a half hour until she was in her 70s," her son said.
Services will be held at 10 a.m. today at the cathedral, Preston Street and Maryland Avenue.
Survivors also include a daughter, Matina Psoras-Bonnen of Angleton, Texas; 12 grandchildren; and 16 great-grandchildren. A son, George Psoras, died in 1978.