Sophia Alexandrides, 85: Blazed career that took her around the world

Sophia Macris Alexandrides was proud of her Greek roots, but willingly defied traditions to live her own life.

Known as outgoing, kindhearted and fiercely supportive of her husband’s career, Alexandrides not only followed him around the world, but also blazed her own career trail to make a difference in the lives of others.

When her husband got a job at the United Nations, so did she. When he was sent abroad during the Korean War, she went, too, working as an interpreter and English teacher in Korea and as an office assistant for U.S. military intelligence in Japan.

“When you grow up in the Greek culture, it’s very atypical for a woman to follow her husband and not be afraid to be at the forefront of doing something with her own life,” said her friend Vickie Henson of Atlanta. “Back in her day, most women stayed home. But there was no stopping Sophia. She was ahead of her time.”

Alexandrides of Atlanta died of uterine cancer on Sept. 5 at the age of 85. Her funeral was Sept. 9 at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Atlanta.

She was born on Sept. 17, 1929 (St. Sophia’s Day), in Birmingham to Greek immigrant parents and grew up in Atlanta.

After graduating from Girls High School, she attended Georgia State University, where she was elected Miss Signal for her popularity. While in college, she also began modeling at the Atlanta Fashion Academy in 1949.

The following year, she met Costas “Alex” Alexandrides at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral, where she sang in the choir. He was a foreign student from Greece attending Emory University. The Greek ambassador to the United States attended their engagement party in 1951.

Two days after their wedding at the Biltmore Hotel on Jan. 27, 1952, the couple headed to New York City where both had landed jobs at the United Nations. He was an economic development officer. She worked as an assistant with UNICEF and in consulate services.

In 1952, the U.N. transferred her husband to Korea during the Korean War. She joined him there – teaching English to the wives of Korean government ministers and serving as an interpreter for Gen. Alexander Christeas of the Greek Expeditionary Force.

“People liked her so much because of her outgoing personality,” her husband said. “She was very good public relations for me in meeting Korean government officials because she taught their wives English, and they invited us into their homes.”

Also while in Korea, Alexandrides volunteered for the YWCA, leading a successful campaign for American donations of food and clothing. For her work, she received the Korean YWCA Golden Heart medallion.

She moved to Tokyo in 1954 to provide administrative support for a U.S. military intelligence branch there.

In 1955, the couple returned to New York, where she resumed her work at UNICEF, before moving back to Atlanta in 1966.

After a stint working for Georgia Tech, Alexandrides became an administrative assistant for Gov. Jimmy Carter in 1972. She retired in 1975 and spent the following year campaigning for Carter’s presidential bid among Greek-Americans.

Failing health prevented her from accepting a job at the White House during the Carter administration, her husband said. So she focused on volunteer work at Emory Hospital, UNICEF and nonprofit agencies.

An avid shopper, Alexandrides was dubbed “The Candy Lady” because she loved to distribute treats to salespeople at her favorite department stores.

“I was fortunate to have Sophia all my life and to be inspired by her example,” her husband said. “One of her main objectives was to help me achieve my goals. She also worked hard to achieve her goals, which were not self-centered but community-oriented to help others. I cannot forget 63 years of happy, married life.”

In addition to her husband, Alexandrides is survived by her sisters Barbara L. Darby of Decatur and Catherine Macris of Tucker.