Eleftheria was born the youngest of eight children, four boys and four girls, born to Phillio and Georgios Hatziparissis on November 6, 1935 in Athens, Greece. Her early memories were of occupying soldiers, curfews, and hunger during the start of World War II. Childhood friends recall Eleftheria as the young woman who turned heads with her beauty, confidence, and style.
In 1959, “Freida” met and married Edward James McMahon, an American pilot she met while working at the Athens airport. Eleftheria and Ed married in Greece and came home to a small house on Lake Lotawana in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. A year later, they became parents of a baby girl, and three years later they moved to Overland Park, Kansas.
A 23-year-old Eleftheria discovered she could assimilate into American culture, yet proudly honor her Greek heritage. She kept her heritage by becoming a member of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Christian Church. She worked at yearly festivals, danced at church events, joined the Ladies Philoptohos society, and later taught Greek language school. Her involvement in the church helped Eleftheria make many dear friends.
As a Renaissance woman, Eleftheria was constantly creating something beautiful or volunteering her time at church. Ria, as some friends called her, had an intense work ethic. She was a self-taught seamstress, sewing much of her and her young daughter’s clothing. Eleftheria was an avid reader, music lover, oil painter, and gourmet cook who never used a recipe.
Eleftheria had a strong desire for higher education. She began fulfilling her educational dream in her thirties while working various jobs and completing college classes at night. She remembered these various jobs with her trademark self-deprecating humor, often stating that she did just about everything! Her employment adventures included: an accounting stint at Glenwood Theater, men’s alterations at Mister Guy clothing store, and management positions at Myron Green cafeterias in Mission, Kansas and Black and Veach in Overland Park, Kansas. She also worked for many years as Dietary Manager at University of Kansas Medical Center.
Eleftheria received an Associate’s degree from Johnson County Community College in the late seventies, followed by a Bachelor of Arts from Avila University in 1978. She graduated with a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Kansas in 1982. Graduation was a serendipitous occasion in that Eleftheria walked down “the hill” in cap and gown on the same day as her daughter.
Her proudest academic and professional achievement came from receiving her degree as an accredited record (medical) technician (ART) from Avila University in 1984. Employment at Baptist Medical Center and The Rehabilitation Institute followed graduation. Eleftheria retired from Menorah Medical Center in 1997.
Faith in God, family, and the opportunities that she worked for were the hallmarks of Eleftheria’s life. To express her gratitude for her life in the U.S., she would often exclaim that this was the best country on Earth! She happily visited her relatives in Greece yearly until her last trip in 1994. She experienced great joy from being able to purchase a home for two of her siblings.
In later years, Eleftheria was eager to bless and encourage others with a smile, compliment, kiss, or song. When asked on her 81st birthday for some words of wisdom, she simply stated “never give up!” She will be remembered for her steadfast positive attitude. It’s fitting that her favorite saying is as follows: “A wise man once said old age is a privilege denied to many.” Eleftheria is now experiencing true freedom, which is the definition of her Greek name.
Eleftheria is survived by her daughter, Maria Elizabeth, son-in-law Robert Schneider, and granddaughter Katherine Schneider, of Overland Park, Kansas. She is also survived by sister-in-law Menia Hatziparissis, three nephews, and three nieces all residing in Greece. She was preceded in death by her parents, seven siblings, and husband.
The visitation will be on Saturday, March 16th at 10:30 a.m. at St. Dionysios Church in Overland Park, Kansas, followed by a funeral liturgy at 11:00 a.m. and luncheon at 11:45 a.m. The burial will be after lunch. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials may be made to St. Dionysios Memorial Trust Foundation.