Irene Kahrilas (nee Markellos) beloved wife of Jerry (deceased), peacefully passed on September 14, 2021. Survived by beloved children, Constance (Harry Bandy), and Angeliki (Basil Karayannis) and cherished grandchildren Nicholas (Rachel Kimchi), Andrea (Michael Kiotis), Elaina, and Michael (deceased). She was a devoted wife, mother, and grandmother who loved spending time with her family.
Irene was my mother, my mentor, and best friend. We were pinochle partners, bingo enthusiasts, and travel mates. Later in life, we came full circle, and she called me “MOM,” as I was her caregiver, companion, and medical advocate for over four and a half years. I will miss her more than words can describe.
Irene was born in Woodbury, NJ on June 11, 1930. I want to share a story that I recently found out about how my mother happened upon getting the name, Irene. Her name on her original Birth Certificate was Marie. Her Godmother wanted her name to be Areti (or, Rita) – so, her Baptismal name was Areti. When she was to enroll in Elementary School, her mother, who did not speak much English sent her sister,Agathi, who spoke a bit more than she to represent the family. She did not know Mom’s name in English and when was asked her name, she said “Areti.” Not recognizing the name, the administrator asked, “do you mean Irene?” – to which my Aunt replied “yes.” She later changed all her documents to reflect this name change – and kept her new name for her entire life. In Greek, Irene (Eirene, Greek) – means PEACE. This turned out to be the perfect name for MOM, who spent her entire life seeking peace, love, and harmony for herself and for those around her.
Irene graduated Woodbury High School and landed a job with RCA as a key punch operator, which at the time was the latest in technology. Several years later, she married Jerry Kahrilas at the old Annunciation Church in Philadelphia. After the birth of their two children, Mom chose to be a “stay at home MOM” – and always put her family first.
Her faith and religion were very important to her. She was very active in St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Upper Darby. She served as President of their Daughters of Penelope, Pandora Chapter 332. One of the highlights of her Presidency was to donate wheelchairs to the Ronald McDonald House. She was also the President of the Philoptochos Society of St. Demetrios Church.
My Dad, Jerry Kahrilas, was the Director of Catering at the Sheraton Hotel in Philadelphia. In this role, he met many dignitaries, celebrities, and politicians. With the eminent closing of the hotel, Jerry and Irene decided to pursue their own restaurant businesses. Together they opened and ran three successful restaurants at different time periods in the Philadelphia area: The Warehouse, an elegant, novelty restaurant; the Washington Square Restaurant, in a vibrant, busy business district; and Mrs. K’s Koffee Shop, a small eatery in the historic section.
While Dad was the business mind – Mom was the Marketing genius. She had a very charming personality and loved people. With menus in hand, she would go to different businesses and strike up conversations – telling them about their restaurant. After a few minutes of chatting, she became fast friends with various people from different walks of life. I was a hostess, cashier, and waitress at the Washington Square. On any given day, we would have up to 16 U.S. Marshalls, which she befriended at the Courthouse, in the store eating lunch. Mom knew them all by name. They were all “packing” – so, I felt very safe at the cash register.
At Mrs. K’s, she went over to the Bourse Building and introduced herself to Pierre Robert, DJ on WMMR – a heavy metal rock radio station. They became friends and he would feature her several times a week on the radio and they would talk about their food specials, among other topics. Shortly after, radio listeners would come into the restaurant asking to meet Mrs. K – some even wanted her autograph!
When Mom & Dad retired, they decided to launch into their movie career as “extras” on the movie set. Mom answered an ad for a contest about why participants felt that they should be selected as extras in an upcoming film called, “Jersey Girl” – with Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, and Jennifer Lopez. Of course, being born and raised in New Jersey, she had to be in this film. A couple of days after submitting her entry into the contest, they called her to come on down for a full day of filming. She asked if Dad could also join – and they approved it. As a movie team, they also had cameo roles in “National Treasure” and two episodes of the TV series, HACK.
May her memory be Eternal!
Family and friends are invited to attend her viewing on Tuesday, September 21st from 10 a.m. - 11 a.m., followed by the Funeral Service from 11 - noon at the Annunciation/Evangelismos Greek Orthodox Church, 7921 Old York Rd., Elkins Park, PA 19027. Her interment will take place at Sts. Peter and Paul Cemetery in Springfield, PA.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Irene’s memory may be sent to Annunciation/Evangelismos Greek Orthodox Church, 7921 Old York Rd., Elkins Park, PA 19027. Or, to the International Orthodox Christian Charities at www.iocc.org.
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