The strikingly beautiful Greek-American girl, Andromache (Maggie) Geanocopoulos was only 26, when she became the first supervisor of the UN guides in November of 1952. Her classic appearance and commanding poise made her an articulate TV guest and she appeared on many of the then popular shows touting the tours. Once in a TV interview at lunch at Sardi’s, when her host, Gary Shannon, expressed anxiety at getting a drink, she asked for a Greek waiter in Greek and the drink came immediately. Her attractiveness and easy self-assurance made her the choice greeter of global VIPs and celebrities. She was featured in international magazines and news articles as the face of the UN guide service. A fashion magazine commissioned her portrait by a leading illustrator.
Maggie had a uncompromising on/off command switch and if guides resisted taking another tour to meet an unexpected crowd, she would be called and her very appearance dissipated resistance – “Come on, get out there.”
She was born in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts on November 28th, 1926, the last of the eight children – three boys and five girls born to Angelo and Anastasia Geanocopoulos who had emigrated separately from Lagadia, a small mountainside village in the very center of the Peloponnesus. Her father’s bare, white-washed home was near the rocky top of the mountain so devoid of soil or vegetation that for centuries, to survive, the men had to travel with a donkey and tools around Mani as itinerate stone masons. Her mother came from the bottom of the mountain near the tiny fields of stubby wheat and her father became a judge so she was considered upper-class. Maggie never met Angelo until they, along with other Lagadians, created a small Greek community in the declining mill town just outside Springfield. When asked by a matchmaker if he, Angelo wanted to marry Anastasia, he replied, “I am not ready to get married now but when I do it will be Anastasia.”
Angelo opened a tiny hat-blocking, shoeshine parlor and the boys (Charlie, Socrates and Peter) provided the labor (Socrates later became a Judge). The first-born Vasillikie (Bessie), upon finishing High School went straight to work for one of the few remaining big companies in town, Westinghouse, and stayed with them until retirement. Sister Kula also went to work at the Westinghouse radio station and married the audio engineer, Harry Jones, who later became the Vice President of the international division.
An ulcer and advancing years forced Angelo to give up the shop and he bought a small second-hand Ford truck and peddled fruits and vegetables from the surrounding farms. Andromache (Maggie) and her sisters would run up the stairs of mill worker apartment flats with the orders called down from the windows and assure the French Canadian nuns that “the corn was picked this morning.” One of the stops was at the Grandville home (The Grandville brothers designed the stubby Gee Bee air racer which later became the prototype for the P 47).
Sister Tula had a surprisingly beautiful contralto voice and all the girls sang in the Greek Orthodox choir with Tula doing occasional solos. (Greek immigrants would build churches with their own hands and money and then ask the Patriarchate in Constantinople (Istanbul) for a priest to be sent and if they did not like him, they would send him back – a not uncommon occurrence.
Uncle Simon, who had no children, was the intellectual of the small Greek community and would keep young Andromache enthralled in Sunday school as he roamed through Greek history from the ancients to the heroes of the revolution.
Andromache loved to read and she would escape the crowed tiny house with a book lying on top of the chicken coop; the chickens were her friends and she would sit and talk and read to them (weeks before she died, she suggested a book of Greek poetry to her daughter Athena).
Maggie met her husband, George Capsis, who now publishes the West Village newspaper WestView News, accompanied by a series of ‘oh wow’ coincidences.
Coming out of a job interview on First Avenue, Capsis looked up to see the gleaming new secretariat building and decided to take the tour, then much touted with WQXR radio ads. However, when he learned, at the tour desk, that it would cost $1.00 (it is now $16.50) he turned to leave saying, “It should be free,” only to hear an advancing tour guide reply, “Capsis, what are you doing here?” When he explained that he did not want to spend the dollar, she offered to have him join her tour (strictly against the rules). Between tour stops, he felt tortured as he tried to decipher his guide’s identity and only later learned she was a regular at the Lion’s Den at Columbia, where she favored layered costumes and jewelry that jingled. Her trim tight light blue uniform blocked any memory of her gypsy past.
“Capsis, you are a Greek. Want to meet another Greek? Here is Maggie Geanocopoulos, my boss.” With that, his mystery guide opened a door and Capsis met the most beautiful Greek girl he had ever seen and he knew she must have more than the average number of admirers. After the standard Greek question, “Where in Greece do your parents come from?” he asked her out for a drink after which she explained she had a date and he parted with her telephone number.
Capsis returned to Greenwich Village and walking through Washington Square, encountered his first love, a tall blond blue eyed stand-in for Candice Bergen who explained her marriage had ended in divorce and she was free. He invited her for a drink at the White Horse.
As he followed stately Polly into the bar, he glanced down and saw Andromache with her date to whom she had just announced, “Today I met the man I’m going to marry.” Three months later they were married and stayed married for 55 years.
Andromache is survived by her husband George, her daughter Athena, and her son Doric.