Xanthippe “Pippi” Anestos, named for the wife of Socrates, our mother, was a beautiful, elegant, strong willed career woman. As our friend Kim Papuchis said, Mom was also the fashion icon of D.C., the kind of woman other women admired. She blew away a room just by walking into it.
Without a college degree, Pippi Anestos rose to become Director of Personnel at the National Navel Medical Center in Bethesda, now Walter Reed. She hired and fired all civilian employees, and as cousin Stav Lampiris noted, “Aunt Pippi hired many cousins and family to great jobs.”
She also fought for women’s rights in the workplace while Director. We’ve heard many stories from professional women employed by Mom at Navy Medical about how she fought the powers that be to advance their careers, to advance the rights of working women generally, and how very much they felt indebted to her.
Pippi Anestos was born in Washington D.C. on March 12, 1924, the 3rd of 5 children to Michael and Mary Apostolakos of Mani, Greece. Mom’s dad Michael, a handsome and successful restauranteur in Washington, tragically died young of cancer at the age of 49. His wife, our grandmother Mary, a smart and loving woman, carried on supporting her large family in ingenious ways. She did so in a big and legendary house on Allison Street in Northwest D.C.
As many in attendance here know, that house was always filled with family and friends. Yiayia (grandmother) took in orphans and in-laws and raised them all like one big family. Yiayia was a saint who could also play a mean hand of poker.
Like her mother before her, Pippi grew into a beautiful and capable young lady. Her dad Michael was a progressive Greek man who Mom remembered saying “I’m going to educate Pippi. She’s amazing!” But after his untimely death, like her older brother Lou, Mom opted to give up her college path and go to work to help support the family. She became employed by the Pentagon and rapidly rose in the civilian personnel ranks.
In 1952, while attending the Ahepa Convention in Washington D.C. Mom met Harry P. Anestos, a Columbia Law graduate and rising star from Savannah, GA. As the story goes, Dad went nuts for Mom and fell in love at first sight. Mom…not so much. She was stunning inside and out and was being voraciously pursued by many. But Harry Anestos was a tenacious lawyer and he just kept coming. Dad proposed to Mom several times before finally charming her into a “yes”. They were married in 1953 in D.C. and moved to Savannah where Mom quickly became the talk of the town.
In 1958 Harry Anestos took his political shot and ran for Congress. Peter (my brother) and I (Michael) remember posing for family publicity photos with Mom and Dad, Mom having meticulously dressed us. Peter age 5 hated it, but I at age 3 reveled in the attention.
We also remember marveling at seeing Mom and Dad on TV. Early in the campaign Dad was doing his TV spots alone but once the producers saw Mom they begged him to put her on camera. He did and as the story goes Dad’s polling numbers skyrocketed. However, this was Georgia in the late ‘50’s and as a Greek American Harry faced prejudices. So even after a great campaign Dad narrowly lost. But this young couple’s good looks and Dad’s civil rights activism became front page news in Atlanta, and it got the attention of the Kennedys. Thus in 1961 our young family, Harry, Pippi, Peter and Michael were invited to move to Washington with the JFK Administration. Dad accepted a high position in Robert Kennedy’s Justice Department, and Mom remembered a big bon voyage party given in her honor by the political elite in Atlanta. Above the hotel ballroom hung a huge banner that read:
“Watch Out Jackie, Here Comes Pippi!!”
The family moved to Chevy Chase where Peter and Michael grew up. Big gatherings of family, friends and Montgomery County judges were frequent and joyful. After JFK’s assassination, Dad left Justice and went into private practice. Mom began her assent to becoming Personnel Director and Navy Medical. Peter studied to become a history professor at Emory University in Atlanta, and after a stint there he went on to run for mayor of San Francisco, eventually settling in Queens, New York teaching languages. Michael became his father’s law partner and they had a blast trying many jury trials together.
A mid 1990’s Washington Post article titled “Father and Son Law Team” featured a picture with Pippi Anestos prominently displayed as the “heart and soul of the firm.” Mom always had a 6th sense about people, and people were always drawn to her. It was also remarkable how she could tell just by looking at them what a jury was thinking.
Again remarkable was how Pippi’s beauty and elegance lasted into her early 90’s. Our friend Gigi Moss, who lovingly helped prepare Mom’s hair and makeup, remembers that “when we were growing up, Mrs. Anestos was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.”
And Mom was a fighter. Her parents hailed from that part of Greece known for strong women, and Pippi Anestos carried that banner her entire gorgeous and elegant life. She survived cancer in her early 50’s and fought valiantly at the end before passing into the arms of God at 96. Words cannot express how much we will miss her.
Due to the pandemic, Funeral Services at Sts. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church of Washington, DC will be private, followed by interment at Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Silver Spring, MD.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in Pippi’s name may be made to Sts. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church of Washington, DC.
Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church
701 Norwood Road, Silver Spring MD 20905