Hundreds Attend Surprise 70th Birthday Celebration for Rhoda Chrysovergis Conley

On Saturday, January 3, 2004, hundreds of friends, relatives, and coworkers of Rhoda Conley filled Drivas Hall of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Saco, Maine at the invitation of Daniel Conley, her son, and Mary Papoutsy, her niece. The festively decorated hall resounded with cries of “Surprise!” and melodic strains of “Happy Birthday!” and “Chronia Polla!” as a stunned guest of honor arrived.

Escorted through the gaily-colored balloon archway to a head table decorated brightly with purple, lilac and gold, Mrs. Conley began greeting many of the guests, recovering from her initial shock. “This is the first time that I have seen her speechless,” laughed Fr. Basil Arabatzis, a sentiment echoed by a number of guests, a clear reference to Mrs. Conley’s outspoken, but kind and compassionate manner. Her vibrant personality is well-known among the parishioners whom she considers “her family.”

All members of the church community, either directly or indirectly, have benefited from her generosity over many years. Choir director, festival cook, church board member, and ready volunteer are among her well-known epithets. But Rhoda is perhaps best known for her culinary talents and her many kindnesses toward individuals in need. She is the first to volunteer to take an elderly person to the physician or to church services. She is the first to bake delicious traditional Greek dishes for shut-ins and friends. She is the first to offer her time in listening and consoling friends during difficult times. As her son, Daniel Conley, had said that evening while he offered a toast to her, “She is an example to all of us.”

After guests were treated to a sumptuous meal prepared by chef Jim Yalouris and his fiancée Gerta, several friends and representatives of the church community spoke eloquently—and humorously--about Rhoda, paying tribute to her many fine qualities. Among the speakers were Fr. Basil Arabatzis, Mrs. Alex Hadiaris, Mr. John Maragus, Mrs. Helen Spirounias, Mr. Daniel Conley, and Mr. and Mrs. Christos Papoutsy. Mrs. Conley received a presentation bouquet of flowers and a Memory Album, to which many guests had contributed photos, news clippings and congratulatory letters in advance of the party.

Following the tributes, delectable desserts were served by the ladies guild and caterer: traditional Greek pastries, American favorites, and a birthday cake specially prepared by Reilly’s Bakery of Biddeford, Maine. The five-tier cake was designed around the party theme: purple-and-lilac colored hat boxes topped by a hand-made silk purple hat.

Guests rounded out the evening stepping high to the rhythmic beats of the Hellenic Ensemble led by Mikel Papoutsy. After Rhoda and her son led the first dance, guests joined in the fun and danced for hours in the recently dedicated church hall, celebrating a personal and community milestone on the occasion of Mrs. Conley’s 70th birthday. Chronia Polla, Rhoda, kai na ekatostisis!