A life to be celebrated in Maspeth
by Andrew Shilling
Jun 19, 2013 | 2443 views | 2 2 comments | 136 136 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Flora Galas
Flora Galas
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Daughter Penny with husband Ronald Van Maldeghem, Flora and son Michael.
Daughter Penny with husband Ronald Van Maldeghem, Flora and son Michael.
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Flora and her husband on their wedding day.
Flora and her husband on their wedding day.
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Flora Galas came to the United States with her mother from the small island of Icaria, Greece, in 1920 when she was seven years old.

Her two brothers Irakli and Johnny both passed when they were very young, so Flora and her mother came alone to meet with her father, who was awaiting their arrival.

The family soon moved to a Greek neighborhood in Steubenville, Ohio, where they made their home.

“Oh, all the gossip; all the Greeks were gossiping,” Galas recalled of the town she grew up in. “We had to be very careful of how we walked and how we talked and all the strangers in the street.”

In 1931, Flora met her husband, Christ Galatoulas, who later changed his surname to Galas. The two left Ohio and moved to Manhattan to start a family of their own when she was 18.

Her husband, who passed away in 1975, ran a number of restaurants in Manhattan, including The Tux and The Lucerne.

Galas has lived in her Maspeth home for 61 years, and remembers growing a lovely sour cherry tree and baking cookies for the family on holidays and offering them to the neighborhood boys, who are now married with families of their own.

“You know, you remember when somebody’s good to you when you were little,” Galas said, sitting at her kitchen table and sipping on a glass of her own homemade cherry wine from 1971.

With a keen sense of humor, sharp memory and eye for good art and opera music, she says she feels much younger than 100.

She vividly recalls when Associated Press reporter John Wallace brought a young boy from Greece to the states for heart surgery and offering to house the boy’s family during their stay.

She traveled with Wallace to Washington and met President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who wanted to meet the boy after he recuperated in her home for three weeks following the operation.

“He said, ‘Mrs. Galas you did a good thing,’” she remembered Eisenhower telling her in the Oval Office when they met.

She traveled with the boy and his family throughout Washington to see the sites of the Capital, and though eventually he went back home to Greece, they stayed in touch for several years.

Over the years, Galas developed a love for painting and created dozens of personal masterpieces, some which still hang on her walls.

In 1981, she made a good friend in the neighborhood and the two traveled across the world, visiting Europe, Egypt and Israel several times over.

“He wanted me to marry him, but I said no,” Galas recalls, laughing at the thought. “I told him, ‘I don’t want to cook and I don’t want to wash. This is better. You have you’re house and I have my house.’”

Today, she still reads, cooks and keeps her good wits and a positive attitude.

“I make my own food and everything,” she said. When asked what she likes to cook, she is quick to fire back, “whatever you want.”

Her children Claire, Christopher, Michael and Penny are all still living and well, often calling to check in on their mother, who in turn checks in on them as well.

“All my children are old,” she said with a smile.

“I think that it’s wonderful that my mother is this age and knows that she is this old,” said Penny, who visits often, “but acknowledges the fact that she has all of her wits too.”

When asked about the key to a long life, Flora points to her roots from the Aegean island of Icaria.

“They drink, they live moderately, but they live long,” she said. “I have no secret.”

Today she still lives in her home in Maspeth, often talking politics with her family, which now includes eight grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren, and remembering the good old days.

On June 22, Flora will celebrate her 100th birthday with them all.

“I lived to be 100, can you imagine?”

Comments
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Nick Hambas
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June 20, 2013
Florence (aka Kouka) is my grandmother and I love her very much. If you ever meet her she is warm, loving, and a caring person.
Karen Cutie
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June 20, 2013
She truly is one of a kind ! We love you Yaya !♥