Life Story Visitation
Wednesday, January 11, 2023
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM EST
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
A Trisagion prayer service will begin at 7pm.
Thursday, January 12, 2023
11:00 AM EST
Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church
507 S. Westnedge Ave.
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
Burial will follow at Genesee Prairie Cemetery.
At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Theoni Androutsopoulos of Kalamazoo, Michigan, born April 4, 1944 in Koumari, Greece, died January 5, 2023 in the comforts of her home where her family cared for her until she was called to the After Life.
Born to Andreas and Eleni (Solomos) Koukou, she was the fifth of nine children. Her parents farmed their owned land and grew groves of olive and lemon trees, almonds, and depended on their raisin crops for their livelihood. Theoni’s was a close-knit family, and she would help to raise those siblings born after her. By her own telling, she was a “mama’s girl” who learned at an early age to cook and to bake for at least eleven. Though she excelled in her studies and loved learning, she was only able to attend school through the 6th grade, as was the norm in rural Greece during post-war and Greek civil-war conditions. It was, she often said, a household that shared its bounty with those who were in need, and travelers and passersby knew always to stop at their homestead for sustenance and refreshment. From this upbringing, Theoni would be a life-time believer in always offering hospitality and an open seat at her dining room table to all.
She often talked about the challenges of mountain-side life: the vast distances between the school house, the nearest church, and the few neighbors. Their home was a small dwelling where there was no indoor plumbing, clothes were washed in the nearby brook, and the baking done in outdoor ovens, but her reflections in later life took on more wonder than anything else, of how they managed without the comparative modern lifestyle. Despite the hardships, in her later years Theoni would pine for these days that seemed to her a simpler and more altruistic time.
Eager to experience life away from the village, Theoni moved to Athens in her late teens to join several of her siblings where she enjoyed city life working in a small notebook factory as well as apprenticing at a confectionery shop that would lead to a life-time passion of baking traditional Greek pastries and cakes to perfection. These are days that she would later reflect on most fondly, and we see in photos the bright-eyed and ambitious young woman who would have it in her to take great leaps of faith to seek out opportunities for the kind of future she wanted to build.
Enter Panagiotis (Panos) Androutsopoulos. Originally also from Koumari and 18 years her senior, Panos had left years before on a work permit in Germany. During his regular trips back to Greece, he took notice of Theoni and twice asked for her hand in marriage, but her father refused to give his blessing so as not to lose Theoni to the Diaspora that was luring so many young people away. But Theoni was determined and convinced her father that it would be temporary and that she would visit regularly. And so, on December 26, 1966, at the age of 22, she married what would be her husband of 52 years, and the very next day embarked for a different country and a brand new life.
In Uetersen, Germany, they spent nearly eight years working for Feldmuehle Paper Company working opposite shifts and raising their daughter Vassiliki (Vicky) who was born in 1967. It was during these years that Theoni developed a deep appreciation for other cultures and nationalities and where she made friends with women from throughout the Middle East, Turkey, and other parts of the world; women like her, who were working hard and away from their families to create a better life.
In 1974, much to the disappointment of her parents back in Greece, the couple decided to once again make a major change, and moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan, to pursue an American life that offered more economic opportunities. They had saved enough money to buy their first house to grow their family. Not long after, in 1975, a second daughter, Tina Elen was born. Theoni soon acclimated to American life, learning her third language. She went to night school and quickly became fluent in English and was quickly employed at Western Michigan University from which she retired in 2006 after 27 years of service.
Her hands were never idle. During her 16 years of retirement, she focused on her husband and family. Her talents and hobbies which included gardening, cooking, baking, and knitting produced so many memorable experiences and gifts for all who spent time with her. One never left her home without being fed sweets or her famous secret recipe squash pita or meatballs.
She was an active and beloved member of both the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church and Philoptochos Society, quietly supporting both as her extended family and beloved Church community. The koulourakia that she made every year for the annual bake sales (thousands upon thousands, over the decades!) were sought out by many and were a sell-out every year. She loved her church at 507 S. Westnedge and inspired many to similar service.
Above all, Theoni loved her grandchildren fiercely and unconditionally. She embraced her blended family with open arms, and was a doting Yiayia to each one, caring for infants, integrally helping to raise them; attending sporting events; sharing her recipes and techniques; lending a listening ear; and sending meatballs home with every one of them for the road. (Oh, those meatballs!) She delighted in the weddings, the growth of their families, in the birth of great-grandchildren, and looked forward to meeting the next one that was on the way. Her deepest pride was seeing them all living beautiful lives and working toward fulfilling their dreams and aspirations.
She was a special lady. Through the works of her hands and her generous spirit she was a true servant of Christ, and as a devoted wife, mother, and grandmother, selflessly dedicated all her energies to family. She was wise. And made of steel till the end. Her kind, caring, and sweet disposition imprinted on all.
Theoni was preceded in death by her parents, husband, and brothers: Yiannis Koukou (of Aigion, Greece) and Yioryios Koukou (of Athens, Greece); and niece, Isabella Panou (of Patras, Greece).
She is survived by her daughters; grandchildren: Aaron Kettner, Sarah (Alex) Johncock, Amanda (Eric) Russo, Andrew (Kasandra) Kettner, Peter Kettner, Alena Kocefas, Alexi Kocefas; Sibling Panos Koukou, Katina Christodoulopoulos, Kostas Koukou, Athina Athimariti, Yiota Koukou, and Vassilis Koukou (all of Greece); great-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews. And last but not least but of special importance: Maria Corakis, Madelyn Goodrich, and Jeanne Doukas, with whom, over the years, she was very close friends.
Though Theoni’s body gave out on her earlier than anyone wished, in her final days, her daughters, who loved her with every ounce of their being, helped Theoni pass into the next life where she said in one of her last audible comments, “all the cosmos” is waiting for her. May her memory among the living be Eternal.
Please join the family during Visitation Wednesday, January 11th from 5-7 PM at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900. The Trisagion prayer service will begin at 7 PM. Funeral services will be held Thursday, January 12th at 11 AM, at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, 507 S. Westnedge Ave., Kalamazoo. Burial will follow at Genesee Prairie Cemetery. Visit Theoni’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories or photos, and sign her guestbook. Memorial donations may be made to Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church.