Dimitra (Kotsiou) Kustas passed away October 10, 2017. She was born January 5, 1927 in the town of Palaiopyrgos Greece. She was the youngest of 3 siblings, a brother George and two sisters Constance and Vicky. During the World War II she was sent to work in Tripoli and then after World War II and the Greek Civil War she returned to her village to find her parents had died. Her brother had left for Australia and her two sisters were married and so she went to stay with relatives and work in Athens.

There she met Thomas and Zoe Cavalaris who wanted to bring back a nanny to help raise their two sons Jimmy and Tom in a traditional Greek household in Charlotte North Carolina. She immediately became part of the family and as was customary in Greek culture, the local Greek community looked for suitors. Family friends of the Cavalris’, Kosta and Katina Kontos knew of a young man Peter Kustas in Poughkeepsie, New York who they wanted to introduce to Dimitra. They arranged for Peter to come to Charlotte for a visit. They immediately hit it off and were married in 1955. The Cavalaris family married Dimitra as a daughter with a rehearsal dinner and full wedding and reception. and their son Tom was the “second best man”. He also baptized Dimitra and Peter’s only son, William.

Dimitra moved to La Grangeville New York and she worked in Pete’s restaurant called the Parkway Rest. They were very successful and loved by the community. Often in the Fall, there would be lines of people from New York City waiting to come in and eat at the restaurant after an outing to see the autumn colors or go apple and pumpkin picking. Pete and Dimitra were very generous known to help many in the community who needed a free meal or a place to stay in the attic bedrooms at the restaurant. After Peter’s untimely death in 1964, Dimitra became a single parent and went about raising her two children, Constance (Connie) and William (Bill). She was supported by her close friends John and Virginia Linardakis who were Connie’s godparents.

Along the way Dimitra sponsored her two sisters and their families to come from Greece in 1967 and 1969. Her sister Connie’s family included her husband George, their sons John and Peter, and their daughters Nicky and Maria. Her sister Vicky’s family included Nick her husband, their son Dimitri and their daughters Giota and Eugenia. Dimitra shared her home with her sisters’ families and even after they found places of their own, would continue to spend time visiting and hosting get-togethers with her relatives. The families flourished opening restaurants in Poughkeepsie, Rhinebeck and Hyde Park while others moved to New York City to became successful in business and teaching.

Dimitra never forgot her roots and how fortunate she had it in this country. She was a hard worker and at times held several jobs to make ends meet, which included the Alumni House at Vassar, Arlington School system, a commercial apple orchard in La Grangeville, and Orchard Communications as well as managed three rental properties on the Kustas estate. She was an incredible woman and so very generous to everyone. She loved to cook and whenever anyone came to visit, the Greek food and pastries came out.

Her daughter Connie graduated from Vassar and works at Marist College in their accounting department. Her son Bill graduated from SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry and Cornell University with a PhD. He works for the USDA-Agricultural Research Service in Maryland. Dimitra stressed education as being so important. She would often say to her grandchildren “School is the best!”, something she was never able to do for herself. She sacrificed all her time and energy on her immediate and extended family and friends.

She was loved and respected by all that came to know her as a loving and caring person. She always had on a smile and always remained positive even through some very difficult times, which was our blessing. Dimitra had a positive impact on many lives and always held to her strong beliefs in God and on being generous to others. She is survived by her son and daughter, her daughter in-law Bridget and her three grandchildren Mary Shea, Teresa and Peter in addition to a great number of cousins, nieces and nephews.

Memorial contributions may be made to The National Down Syndrome Society http://www.ndss.org/Ways-to-Give/

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