SACO – John Anagnostis, a teacher and friend to many, died Sunday at the age of 80.

Mr. Anagnostis taught English at Kennebunk High School for 33 years, retiring in 1986.

His wife, Dolly, said he used innovative techniques to engage his students. If a student were more interested in working on the engine of his car than studying literature, Mr. Anagnostis would have him write essays on how to repair a car engine.

“They learned about English, and he learned about cars,” his wife said.

Long after students graduated, Mr. Anagnostis stayed in touch. One student from Kennebunk High School had lunch on a regular basis with him, regarding him as a lifelong mentor and friend, his wife said. He even received a phone call last week from one of the first students he taught when he started his career in Virginia.

Because he kept in touch with past students, he even knew local fishermen who can still recite passages from “Beowulf,” an Old English heroic poem that Mr. Anagnostis made his students memorize, his wife said.

A longtime resident of Saco, Mr. Anagnostis was well-known in the area for his involvement in community organizations such as Rotary, Saco Spirit and the Saco Museum Board of Trustees, said his son John Anagnostis. He also was a member of Dyer Library and St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church.

Regardless of where Mr. Anagnostis went or what he was doing, he helped a number of people throughout his life.

“He touched an enormous amount of people. The enormity of it all made a great impact on who my brother, my sister and I are today,” John Anagnostis said.

Because of Mr. Anagnostis’ work as a teacher, his son was inspired to pursue a teaching career as well.

His other son, Sam Anagnostis, was present a month ago when Mr. Anagnostis installed a plaque at Main and Storer streets in Saco as a tribute to Olympia Fruit, the store his father owned. He was surprised to see more than 30 people turn out for the ceremony.

Mr. Anagnostis’ parents were Greek immigrants. While he was proud to be an American citizen, he was also very proud of his Greek heritage, his wife said.

For nearly 20 years, he hosted “The Greek American Hour” on a local radio station. He also authored “49 Storer St.,” a compilation of columns he wrote about growing up a Greek American in the 1940s and 1950s, food and traditions his family honored, his father’s birthplace and his immigrant parents.

“He was proud of his Greek heritage and wanted to share it,” Dolly Anagnostis said.

Mr. Anagnostis and his wife visited Greece a number of times. He has first cousins who still live there. and he was able to return to visit them, as well as learn more about his heritage.

Passing on Greek traditions to his children and grandchildren was important to him, emphasizing the role of the Greek church and celebrating holidays.

The younger John Anagnostis recalls weeklong celebrations of Easter in the Greek Orthodox Church. His father would take the family to Saturday night services that continued until the early hours of Sunday morning. His son said when they would return home, sometimes at 1 or 2 a.m., celebrations continued.

“It wasn’t ‘Oh, we’re tired. Let’s go to bed,’ ” he said, adding that they would eat soup and crack eggs as part of Greek tradition.

“It was something he had done as a kid with his mom and dad. Being immigrants, they carried that over,” his son said.

 

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: [email protected]