Mary Algers Farmakis, 101: Taught Greek traditions of food, family

When the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation formed its history and archives committee, Mary Farmakis quickly reached out to the group’s chairman. Thanks to her father, Farmakis had access to many original church photographs and artifacts.

“She wanted us to know there were several things she wanted us to have,” said Stephen Georgeson, president of the cathedral’s parish council. “Some of the oldest photographs and objects that we have, she gave to us.”

Farmakis’ father, Gerasimos Algers, was part of the group that established the church in 1905, and she inherited not only artifacts, but many stories of the early days.

“Her memory was rock solid,” said her niece, Janet Algers. “Toward the end of her life, she’d say, ‘When are you coming over to get the portraits?’ because she wanted us to have these things because they were her crown jewels.”

Farmakis wanted to make sure her niece and two granddaughters could continue to share the family’s history through pictures and other items.

“She set a very high bar,” Algers said of her aunt.

“I don’t know if we can fill those shoes,” said Farmakis’ granddaughter Krista Brown.

“But that is why we have each other,” said Brown’s sister, Kelly Nettles. “We will rely on each other.”

Mary Algers Farmakis of Atlanta died Sunday at Halcyon Hospice after a period of declining health. She was 101.

A funeral is planned for 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation. Burial will follow at Greenwood Cemetery. A.S. Turner Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

The former Mary Algers was born in Atlanta, but her family moved to New York when she was a pre-teen. She came back in 1948 with her husband, Melton Farmakis, and their 12-year-old son, Jerry. In 1960, the Farmakises ran a drugstore on Peachtree Street. When they retired 10 years later, Mary Farmakis went to work as the office manager for her brother at his diner, Doby’s Good Food, on Ponce de Leon. Mary and Melton Farmakis were married for 47 years at the time of his death in 1980. Their son, Jerry Farmakis, died in 1991.

The Farmakis home, on Highland Avenue, was “like Grand Central Station” for the Greek community, Janet Algers said.

“When the cathedral had its 50th anniversary, the (commemorative book) was put together at Aunt Mary’s dining room table,” she said. “Not only was her home open, but it was in a good location, and people would stop by when church activities were taking place.”

The atmosphere and the food at Farmakis’ home were both in the classic Greek tradition.

“She knew the recipes,” Brown said. “She taught us how to make the Greek pastries at a very early age. Kelly and I have memories of cooking in her kitchen, making a complete mess, but it didn’t matter because we were at YiaYia’s house.”

“She not only wanted to pass it on to us, but she wanted to model the traditions,” Nettles said of her grandmother’s heritage. “The preparation of things going on in the community and in the church, like fasting for Communion, there was a way to do that, and she wanted to make sure we knew how to do it properly.”

In addition to her granddaughters, Farmakis is survived by two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.