One of the greatest leaders of the Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal, Andrianos Maris, passed away a few days ago. He is the man who changed the root of the community's history, extending its reach and its activities beyond the borders of Montreal island proper. He left behind a great legacy, one that placed the Greek Community of Montreal on another level.
Andrianos Maris was born in 1925 and died closely after having celebrated his 90th birthday. He completed his elementary schooling in Andros, in 1937, graduated from high school in Athens in 1944 and went on to study business at Pittman's College, in England. Between 1947 and 1952, Maris worked for a shipping company based in London and Piraeus.
He subsequently emigrated to Canada, arriving in Montreal in February of 1952. In December of that same year, he joined with other post-war Greek immigrants in establishing a Greek library on Mansfield Street, in the heart of downtown Montreal.
It was precisely at this time, when the "pre-war" generation of Montreal's Greek immigrants were reluctant to accept any recent "newcomers" into their Agia Triada Community, that Andrianos' success in organizing the Mansfield library resulted in its members being incorporated into the official Greek Community of Montreal shortly afterwards.
In 1955, Andrianos Maris married Mary Campanis, in Athens, who bore him two boys, Nikos, in 1956, and George, in 1958. In 1962, he encountered the respected Archbishop, Athenagoras, to whom he expressed his concerns about the situation and uncertain future of the Greek schools in Montreal. His official involvement in community matters began in 1967 when he became a member of the College of Governors of the Greek Community of Montreal.
In 1980, he was elected president where, a short while later, he was able to realize a big dream by commencing construction on the modern and imposing community centre of the Hellenic Community of Montreal, and this, in the face of much adversity and the persistent negativism of many members.
In 1985, he brought about the much desired union of two local Greek Communities, those of Montreal and South Shore, and laid the groundwork for the construction of South Shore's community center, the church of St. John and another community school, Socrates IV.
In 1986, the famous actress and Greek Minister of Culture, Melina Merkouri, officially inaugurated Montreal's community centre. Immediately following, the Greek Community of Montreal would become a multi-task organization, housing facilities, trilingual schools, churches, institutions and social services, going on to be widely recognized as a model organization of Hellenism in the Diaspora.
I first met Andrianos Maris in 1988, even prior to my settling permanently in Montreal. I admired him for his passion and organizational skills and his great dreams about Hellenism.
Andrianos Maris will be remembered because he conceived the dream of uniting the pre-war and post-war generation of Greek immigrants under one entity, the Hellenic Community of Montreal. The creation of the Library on Mansfield in 1952 made him the first man to pierce the status quo, enabling the joining of all of Montreal's Greeks under one common umbrella.
He closely co-operated with the then head priest of St. George's Cathedral, who is, today, Metropolitan Sotirios of Toronto, to promote the smooth and advantageous transition of the "Socrates" Greek elementary schools from the province's English School Board to the French School Board, enabling an agreement to be signed to this end by the President of the Hellenic Community at the time, Demetrius Manolakos.
It can be said that Andrianos Maris had his glamorous and his difficult moments as president of the Hellenic Community over the span of twelve years (1980-1992). Along the way, he made thousands of friends as well as a handful of enemies. However, he will go down in history as a dreamer, a leader of Hellenism abroad and a protector and preserver of the Greek language and culture in the new lands of the Diaspora.
He was the initiator of the "big dream" of bringing together all the communities of Greater Montreal (Montreal, the South Shore, Laval), stirring both feelings of enthusiasm as well as animosity amongst the Greeks of the city.
Andrianos Maris was a model leader, a passionate man with regards to the survival of Hellenism. Our frequent discussions, in recent years when I would visit him at home, consistently revolved around a key theme: "Will we succeed, as Greeks, in injecting our spirit into the future generations? Will our children speak our language? Will they learn about the glamorous history of Greece in depth?"
I would enjoy my coffee over endless conversations with Andrianos and his wife, Mary, who was the pillar of his existence, his steadfast rock, until his final days. Mary adored her husband. She believed in him and supported him, enduring endless hours of his absence when he was immersed in community matters. She became, in effect, the mother of the whole Greek community.
Andrianos Maris was a landmark of the Greek Community of Montreal and my personal idol, given his Helleno-centric ideas.
In the end, his body may have weakened and ceased to beat, but his spirit will forever soar above the Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal. He is, and will remain, a point of reference for the post-war generation of Montreal's Greek immigrants.
May his memory be everlasting!!!
Photo courtesy of the Hellenic Congress of Quebec