For someone whose first name is the Greek word for peace, Irene Macris endured a lot of armed conflict and hardship during the first third of her life.
Born on the island of Zakynthos on Oct. 20, 1920, she lived through Greece’s war with Turkey in the 1920s, the brutal occupation of Greece by Nazi Germany and fascist Italy in the 1940s, and a nasty civil war afterward between Greek Communists and royalists. Then a great earthquake in 1953 devastated Zakynthos and other Ionian Sea islands, killing 470 and injuring 2,500.
Life finally became more tranquil for her, husband Dennis and their two children once they immigrated to America in 1956 and settled in Alpharetta.
Dr. Allen Macris, a nephew who was a Greek native and had put down roots in metro Atlanta previously, sponsored his aunt and uncle’s family.
“After the quake, my wife Etichia and I brought several trunks of supplies donated by Atlanta department stores to people in need on Zakynthos,” recalled Allen Macris, now a resident of Sandy Springs. “My aunt and uncle were living in a large tent there with other families, and I was impressed immediately by her intensity, her ingenuity, her willingness to work. I felt she had what it takes to make it in America.”
Irene Macris, 92, died Tuesday at the Dogwood Forest assisted living community, Alpharetta. Her funeral will be at 11 a.m. Monday at Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church, Marietta. Northside Chapel Funeral Directors is in charge of arrangements.
Her son, Bobby Macris of Alpharetta, said that when his parents moved to Alpharetta the people there were “so welcoming. The ladies there taught my mother to cook Southern-style. A neighbor would drive my father to work and back. At the beginning, we received donated clothes and home furnishings, but once my parents had steady work, they thanked those who helped them and made it clear they did not want more assistance.”
Mr. and Mrs. Macris eventually got long-term custodial jobs with the Fulton County school system. She worked in the Alpharetta Elementary School’s lunchroom and became a favorite of children there, some of whom recalled her fondly in recent Facebook messages, said her daughter, Ellen Young of Roswell.
Young said her mother acquired skills in Greece that helped augment the family’s income. “Word got around that Mom was good at sewing,” she said, “and people often brought their things to our house for repairs and alterations, which she did for a modest fee.”
Irene Macris originally had hoped to become a teacher, but had to leave school in Greece after sixth grade in order to help support her parents and siblings. Her son said she was proud that he earned a Ph.D. and was a teacher and administrator in the Fulton system, and that her four grandchildren were all college graduates.
She was a member of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral, then became a founding member of the Holy Transfiguration Church in Marietta. There, she sang in the choir, was a volunteer with the women’s charitable group and cooked traditional Zakynthos dishes for church festivals.
Her husband Dennis died in 1984. Surviving besides her son, daughter and four grandchildren are three great-grandchildren.