The Greek America Foundation is proud to honor the life and legacy of Mary Manolides Delistraty, “a true Greek” born in the United States to immigrants from Pasalimani, Piraeus, Greece.
Mary Manolides Delistraty of San Rafael, California, died on January 31, 2021, after almost 95 years of living, in her own words, “an incredible life.” Known for her easy, infectious, and sometimes hysterical laugh, she was a deft conversationalist, a spin-master of tennis, a formidable cruciverbalist, a history aficionado, an expert cook, a voracious reader, and just about the sweetest 4-foot-11-inch human being imaginable.
Her beloved husband, John Delistraty, died in 2017. She is survived by her children, Christine Des Jarlais (Stephen Atwater) of San Rafael, CA, and Damon Delistraty (Jema, d. 2014) of Spokane, WA; grandchildren, Jenny Des Jarlais (Kevin Hill) of Oakland, CA, Jeffrey Des Jarlais (Kelsey Stillinger) of Los Gatos, CA, Cody Delistraty of NYC, and Joe Delistraty of Eugene, OR; and great-grandchildren, Dahlia Hill, Desmond Hill, and Sydney Des Jarlais, as well as many nieces and nephews.
Mary was born in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Washington, on February 19, 1926, to Anthippi and Andrew Manolides, a fruit-stand vendor who emigrated from Pasalimani, Greece.
She studied history at the University of Washington, where she joined the Kappa Delta sorority. In 1947, she saw her future husband, John, at her brother’s wedding and “heard bells ring,” as she liked to tell it.
The Delistraty and Manolides families had known each other for years, and she and John had met briefly as children. John, also the son of Greek immigrants, had just graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
After marrying in 1948, the beautiful young couple set out for the start of their life together, sailing first to Nuremberg, Germany, where their daughter, Christine, was born. They returned stateside, moving among Army bases and towns throughout the country. They had their son, Damon, while stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
In the late 1960s, they spent two years in the Kifissia neighborhood of Athens, Greece, which Mary later called the greatest years of her life. She loved the familiar food, the familiar language and the feeling of home and history.
A true Greek, Mary loved the Olympic Games. She wrote about what they meant to her in a newspaper-sponsored essay contest, winning the spectacular opportunity to run with the Olympic torch in San Francisco during the torch relay for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Running with the torch—and completing a marathon on the original course in Greece a few years earlier—were among her proudest achievements.
Mary was charged with creating a sense of home wherever her family went. She was a top-notch hostess and party-thrower, reaching perhaps no higher peak than her legendary “gilravage party,” named after the Scottish word for riotous merrymaking.
For weeks, from their home in Livermore, California, she sent a series of letters to friends—with no return address and signed by the mysterious “Gil Ravage”—that contained clues for getting to an upcoming party. The clues led the guests to meet at the Livermore Library, where they dug in the dirt to find a final clue pointing them to the Delistraty home and revealing Gil’s true identity. The partygoers were thrilled to find the house set up like a casino and a hand-drawn caricature of each attendee waiting at their seat.
A part-time grade-school teacher and tennis instructor, Mary balanced the life of the body and the mind. She read constantly and kept up with politics.
She was curious, articulate, open-minded, and embracing of social progress. She played a dogged game of tennis and golf. As a girl, she often beat others at ping-pong, her prowess later culminating in a decisive victory over her husband. (Though socialized, she said, to cede conquest to men, she believed in no such thing and was unsparing in her triumph.)
She was passionate about traveling, forever assisting others with tips and recommendations for restaurants and sites of interest.
Mary adored her family. She was always excited to see her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren and collected favorite stories and quotes like treasures, retelling them with joy and baking them into family lore. She had many deep friendships that she cherished. When greeting loved ones at her door, she gave a delighted laugh and a warm hug, letting them know they were welcome not just in her home but in her life and heart.
A celebration of Mary’s life will take place at a later time. Her family is encouraging donations in her memory to benefit the philanthropic and charitable endeavors of the Greek America Foundation.
Please click below to make a donation in memory of Mary Manolides Delistraty.Donate
PLEASE NOTE: We accept donations via check. Click here to fill out our electronic form and find instructions for how and where to mail your check.
The Greek America Cultural and Educational Foundation [Greek America Foundation] is a 501c3 non-profit corporation in the state of New York. Federal ID #81-1672793. All donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Reference IRS Publication 526.
Donate with confidence
The Greek America Foundation has a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, the world’s leading charity transparency watchdog. Click here to view our profile on GuideStar.