Written and Delivered by Father Anthony Kosturos, Pastor

Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church

San Francisco, CA

At the corner of Third and Folsom Streets

April 22, 2001

Today, April 22, 2001, we have gathered here at Third and Folsom Streets to pay tribute to our immigrant parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts, who emigrated from Greece and Asia Minor in the early 1900s to settle in the City by the Bay.  They brought with them the hope they would find “gold in the streets”; if not, at least sufficient sources to care for their family here and send some of their hard-earned money to their fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters longing to see them again.

Imagine their shock when they discovered gold was nowhere to be found, and income for subsistence and financial improvement required hard work.

Much of their enterprising spirit evolved in this area, where we have gathered today.  Slowly and inexorably, they moved forward and established businesses.

Permit your mind’s eye to revert to that era long ago.  Do you hear them speaking Greek in restaurants, coffee houses, grocery stores, barber shops and shoe repair shop, a coffee company and the like?  Watch them as some who are literate read to their friends news from the established Greek newspaper.  Can you picture them greeting each other on the sidewalks and at crosswalks?  Listen to their exchange of ideas, enunciated passionately, and then observe them plying their trade in broken English.

With all this before them, they did not overlook the importance and need to provide their families with a place for worship.  In 1904, they founded the parish of Holy Trinity.  After the earthquake of 1906, the first Greek Orthodox Church west of Chicago was constructed at Seventh and Folsom Streets.  This was the Center of “togetherness” for the first Greek Orthodox parish in the West.  It is fascinating that the original parish by-laws included Article Three, which stipulated that each member will give fifty cents a month for support of church and personnel as well as fifty cents once a year for the Greek Navy.  This detail reveals the loyalty cherished for their native land.  In subsequent years, broaden your imagination as you watch them in animated discussions over who should lead Greece, King Constantine or Venizelos, the Prime Minister, with their own pronouncements of who should prevail, arguing their case with outstretched arms and enthusiastic gesticulations.

Owing to their dedication, their work extended from fourteen to sixteen hours a day.  They quickly manifested the ability to advance in business and increase their income.  Greeks, by centuries-old-tradition, like challenges.

How were they to imagine then that most of them would never return to Greece?  Many had planned to fill their pockets with gold and go back home as saviors of their family.  By the end of the 1930s, they had begun to accept reluctantly that their permanent home was to be in our City or in some other part of the Bay Area.  The Second World War made this acceptance obvious.  They were now Greek Americans, Greek at heart but American in outlook.

All of us who emanate from them ought to admire their abiding respect for our Orthodox Faith, family honor, and devotion to good reputation.  They were proud descendants of a Nation which emphasizes the importance of family unity and integrity.  They were not discouraged by the unexpected circumstances they had to endure.  They rolled up their sleeves, went to work, provided for their loved ones, and found support and solace in the practice of Orthodox liturgical life.  At first, they were puzzled by prejudiced remarks cast at them by ethnic groups established here before them.  Yet, their sense of Greek pride, known as “filotimo”, spurred them on to steady and greater progress.  They were not to be left behind others in our City.  They learned English, became naturalized citizens, and raised their family with moral dignity.  They vowed to encourage their children to become educated and not be compelled to undergo the rigors of work which required endless hours of toil and sweat.  They envisioned a better path of life for their children, and they labored even more diligently to see their family climb to a more convenient and comfortable plateau of living.

When we contemplate what those early Greek settlers accomplished in a land unlike what they expected; when we realize most of them had not gone beyond the third grade in formal education; when we consider their awareness of being branded outsiders by many non-Greeks around them; when we recognize that from this very hub of “Greek Town”, the first Greek Mayor, George Christopher, emerged in the 1950s; when we imagine what they experienced to become productive and admired citizens of San Francisco; when we listen to their silent, inner voice urging them on in their steady tread toward progress, it becomes so readily apparent and natural to us, their children and grandchildren, nephews and nieces, to have this plaque dedicated to them at this site under the auspices of a group which exemplifies their aspirations, the Hellenic American Professional Society.

To these immigrant precursors we offer our profound gratitude.  To them we direct our admiration.  For them we extend to our Lord prayers for their peace and joy in the world beyond.  They and their families are our heroes and heroines.  They are truly those who set the stage for us to be here today.  In humility, we offer this plaque of commemoration as an expression of our pride in who we are:  Greeks proud to be Americans or Americans proud to be of Greek ancestry.

BRIEF BIOGRAPHY

Father Anthony Kosturos, born in San Francisco in 1925, was ordained a Deacon and Priest in 1948.  He and his Presvytera Mary have been blessed with seven children and nine grandchildren.

<pAs the first American-born priest appointed to Southern California, Father Anthony in 1948 served in Los Angeles, California at the Annunciation Church, and from 1952 until 1955, at the new Saint Sophia Cathedral (the former Annunciation).  In June 1955, he undertook the pastorate of the Holy Trinity Church in San Francisco, the oldest Greek Orthodox Church established west of the Mississippi River.  A new edifice for Holy Trinity Church, the setting sanctioned by Frank Lloyd Wright, was dedicated in 1964 on San Francisco’s Brotherhood Way, a one-mile long boulevard decreed as the site of a community of adjoining numerous houses of worship.

In 1970, Father Anthony established the only Greek Orthodox parochial kindergarten through eighth grade school in Northern California, the Holy Trinity parish Elementary Parochial School of which he is the principal.  In addition, Father Anthony has been preaching the gospel on radio since 1956, and currently serves as Vicar of the Diocese of San Francisco.

In the span of a fifty-three year career, Father Anthony has energetically spearheaded the construction of two new church edifices, one in Los Angeles, and the other, in San Francisco, a parochial school, and an athletic center housing a professional basketball facility, the Holy Trinity George and Tula Christopher Center, including a dance studio, weight room, library, meeting and multi-purpose rooms.

Father Anthony, intuitive, visionary, humorous, and with a gifted voice, is dedicated in his mission to serve the Greek community spiritually and professionally.  He has lived the life of the first generation born of immigrant parents in San Francisco and comprehends with empathy the trials Greek pioneers experienced.  The words of his Commemorative Speech reflect his insight and heartfelt compassion for San Francisco’s early Hellenes.

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Greek Historical Society of the San Francisco Bay Area