Helen Agathonos:
Letter to Class of 1961 on eve of 50th Reunion

September 23, 2011

Dear classmates,
In spite of my great interest and wish to be with you at this GREAT EVENT, all I can do is to send you my thoughts and warm feelings along with the sea breeze from the island of Kea in the Cyclades, Greece, where we live for a good number of months a year.

I have been looking at the pictures of those of you who will be together next week; some I still recognize, others less, some not at all, with much regret I realized that some good friends of the time have passed away. Fifty years is a long time in one’s life, the picture may fade but the feelings are there.

I have been extremely lucky to have been hosted by the Creightons (Lynne and John also at Campbell High), a family that has become my second family while each of its members, my close and loving relationship throughout these years. I have returned several times to Campbell, San Jose, San Fransisco and Oakland where they have been living, alone or with each of my sons. Each return has been a landmark; a coffee party in Campbell attended by our teacher Mrs Molly Highland and Mr Tarr, but also by my good friend Leroy Ward and other family friends; a family camping trip up north, a S.F. experience on Mardi Gras, a cook out weekend on Yosemite, and of course, a weekend in Carmel, almost every time! It is hard to believe but after 50 years, my AFS sister Lynne and I e-mail each other often enough to exchange everyday matters of our lives.

My life has been blessed with challenges, positive and negative, from which I have learned how to appreciate the gift of life. I have parented two great sons and two lovely step children, all of which have their families; my younger son and his family have moved to Shanghai, China, my older son and his family run the Red Tractor Farm on the island of Kea, an agricultural guest house in a farm on our island. Dimitris, my husband and I have been in pension for the last few years, enjoying our three grandchildren but also being involved with volunteer work, writing, travelling but also with all that Greece offers throughout the year.

At a personal level, I have worked as a psychologist all my life (a PhD from Birmingham University, UK), doing research, clinical work and training in the areas of child protection (child maltreatment), family violence, community development and health promotion. My work involved a strong international commitment and a European responsibility in promoting Children’s Rights in the EU. Through my professional career I was able to meet and collaborate with many colleagues from around the world, committed in the plight of children and their rights, especially those victims of violations. Long time friendships have evolved, a blessing for one’s life.

Every time I look back in my life’s journey, I do realize that my AFS experience has been in the background of many of my decisions and drives but mostly, in my outlook for life and its value systems.

Campbell High School and its spirit has contributed considerably to this journey; teachers, students, overall spirit and of course, its beautiful grounds.

I shall remember:
A fire drill while in the showers and me trying to find a second towel as one was not enough (at the time!!)

My negative response to a party invitation at school start, because of a family trip to SF to attend a ballet dance performance, which I pronounced as “belly” dance!

Mr Tarr announcing to class: “Ladies and gentlemen, miss Agathonos had to come all the way from Greece to ‘teach you English’ “ (I surely hid under my desk)

My AFS mom and grandmother sawing for me a very old fashioned suit for my role as “prison or court guard” in the school play “The people against Maxim Loe”. (I hated to wear it but I liked participating in the play)

Lastly, the “gentle Tony”, a home permanent I was advised to have upon my arrival in August 1960 to comply with the local fashion, which resulted to “kinky” curly hair and a lot of tears soaking my pillow at nights. The problem was partly solved by sleeping with hair rollers and painful pins at night to heal my “trauma”…

Dear all,
Campbell High School, and each one of you have been a part of my life all these years. This exciting puzzle makes the synthesis of my life so far.

I would be happy to meet with any of you that will come to Greece.

With my best wishes
Helen Agathonos,PhD
Consultant, Child Protection