Theodore Roosevelt High School Class of 1959 - Latest News
06-25-2017 - Sophie Pargas Vlassis Obituary
Sophie Pargas Vlassis was born on May 29, 1941 in Des Moines, Iowa to Harry and Stavroula (Bennos) Pargas. She passed away peacefully on June 16, 2017 at the age of 76. She graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1959, and continued her education at Drake University from 1959-1963 where she received a Bachelor's Degree in the College of Liberal Arts, in Psychology and Sociology, and a minor in Secondary Education. While at Drake, she was a member of Alpha Phi Sorority, served as Chairperson of Drake's Campus Appeals Committee, was a member of Angel Flight, and served on Drake's Council for International Understanding. Upon graduating from Drake, Sophie was hired by the Des Moines Public Schools to teach geography at Warren Harding Junior High School, and was there for 20 years. In 1983, she transferred to Hoyt Middle School where she taught geography and government for 10 years. She loved her job and her students, and continued to keep in contact with hundreds of her former students throughout the years. In 1986, Sophie was a finalist for "Iowa Teacher of the Year", and in 1989 she was named "Rotary Middle School Teacher of the Year". She was the first middle school teacher to receive the "Educator Excellence Award", sponsored by KCCl-TV and Norwest Bank in 1993, and twice was named to "Who's Who of American Teachers". In 1994, she received KCCl-TV ' s "Leading the Way Award" for being instrumental in organizing and instituting Hoyt Middle School's Annual "Health Blitz Week". In 1996, Sophie was honored by the Iowa Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports for her work with Hoyt Middle School’s "Health Blitz Week". In 1993, she received Hoyt Middle School’s VIP Award. Sophie enjoyed traveling around the State of Iowa, speaking to hundreds of teachers on her favorite topic, "Everything You Wanted to Know About Teaching, But Didn't Know Who to Ask". In addition to her love of teaching, Sophie also enjoyed volunteering in the community. She volunteered for dozens of non-profit agencies, but the one dearest to her heart was the Lupus Foundation of America, Inc., Iowa Chapter, the disease that she was diagnosed, and struggled with, since 1964. In 1982 she co-founded the Des Moines Area Lupus Support Group. She then became involved at the state level where she served as President, Vice President and Secretary of the Foundation, and made several trips to WDC, lobbying the Iowa Congressman on behalf of the Lupus Foundation. She conducted fundraisers, and helped raise thousands of dollars for lupus. In 2005, she was inducted into the Lupus Foundation of America’s "Hall of Fame". Other awards that she received include Junior Achievement’s "Outstanding Consultant of the Year, the "Dynamic Woman Award" sponsored by the Friends of the Forest Avenue Library, Alpha Phi Sorority's Ursa Major Award for her involvement in community affairs, one of the Beaverdale Neighborhood Association's Volunteer of the Year, and the Outstanding Service Award by Des Moines Area Retired School Personnel. To honor Sophie' s dedication to its group, the Lower Beaver Neighborhood Association established the "Sophie Vlassis Volunteer Award" that was presented each year to the Association' s outstanding volunteer. In 1999 the then owners of Granny's Frozen Custard Shop named their famous raspberry sundae after her calling it the "Sophie Sundae", because she was one of their faithful customers, and loved the sundae so much. Sophie served as President of the American, Iowa and Polk County Pharmacy Auxiliaries, treasurer of the Daughters of Penelope, board member of the Penelope House 38, the Beaverdale Fall Festival, and Tai Village, the Community Health Charities and the Partners for Better Health. She was a member of PEO Chapter V, Delta Kappa Gamma Sorority, Des Moines Area School Personnel Association, Iowa Lutheran Hospital Auxiliary, Iowa Retired Teachers Association, the Alpha Phi Alumnae, and was formerly a member of the Des Moines Women's Club and the Des Moines Sister Cities Commission. While teaching at Hoyt Middle School, she established a business partnership between Hoyt Middle School and Iowa Lutheran Hospital, established a sister city school partnership with Hoyt Middle School and Hokusi Junior High School in Kofu, Japan, was actively involved with the Japan Arts Festival in 1986. In earlier years Sophie was active in her church, teaching Sunday School, singing in the choir, volunteering in the office, and helping at the Annual Greek Food Fair. She devoted many years as a volunteer for the Festival of Trees, Iowa Senior Games and the Iowa Chapter of the American Cancer Society. Sophie was a "political junkie", starting her volunteer work in politics when she was in high school, and continuing to do so until her health started to fail. She boasted that she had experienced both sides of the political spectrum, having started out as a Democrat… switching to a Republican ...and then back to a Democrat. Tom and Sophie were married on May 1, 1976, and truly had a "big, fat Greek wedding", with more than 1,000 attendees at the ceremony. They were known to the Des Moines Community as the "Dynamic Duo". They loved to entertain friends and foreign guests in their home. For 16 years, hundreds of friends enjoyed brats and hamburgers, prepared and cooked by Tom, and salads and desserts, prepared by Sophie, at their Annual "Vlassisfest" that was held the 3rd Sunday in September. They served as host parents to 3 foreign students, 2 from Japan and 1 from Greece, under a program called the Youth for Understanding. After their year of stay ended, and the students returned to their home countries, Tom and Sophie visited their homes, and were able to meet their families. Throughout the years they continued to keep in contact with these students. For 15 years, Sophie and Tom played "Santa and Elf " on Christmas Eve, and each year would visit at least 25 homes, delighting the children, as they received a "magical candy cane" from Santa. One year the 25 degrees below zero temperature did not deter them from visiting the Pediatrics Ward at Iowa Lutheran Hospital. They loved to travel, and visited all 50 states, as well as several countries abroad, always meeting new and lasting friends in their travels. In 1994 they were named the Des Moines Register's "Sweetheart Couple". In 1997 were bestowed the honor of serving as Grand Marshals of the Beaverdale Fall Festival, in 2009 they were selected "Citizens of the Year" by the Des Moines Neighbors, and in the same year they received the "Beaverdale Brick" by the Beaverdale Neighborhood Association for their commitment to the Beaverdale community. Sophie was preceded in death by her parents, Harry and Stavroula Pargas, and her sister, Agatha Pargas. She is survived by her husband and best friend, Tom, and several nieces and nephews, godchildren, foreign students and thousands of loving former students and friends. Visitation will be held from 3:00-6:00pm, Sunday, June 25, 2017 at Iles Westover Chapel. A Daughters of Penelope will begin at 6:00pm, followed by a Trisagion Service. Funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m., Monday, June 26, 2017 at the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George. Interment will be at Chapel Hill Gardens Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, Sophie requested that memorial donations be made to the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George or the Lupus Foundation, Iowa Chapter.