Tahoe City family returns to homeland for games
TAHOE CITY – The day before leaving for Athens to watch the Olympic Games, Mary Mourelatos was out walking around her Tahoe Vista resort and glanced at the flags adorning her beachfront property.
She and husband Andreas Mourelatos, owners of the Mourelatos’ Lakeshore Resort in Tahoe Vista, are proud to be Greek, and even more so to be American. The raised flags outside their beachfront resort give testimony to their heritage – an American flag, a Greek flag, and the most recent addition, an Olympic flag, shipped over directly from Greece.
The Mourelatos have owned the property for 26 years, but since the Olympic Games are in Greece, they decided to celebrate their ancestry by raising the flags. They added the Greek and Olympic flags this summer, but the American flag still flies 6 inches higher than the others.
“My father wanted to show the balance and respect he has for the countries that have made his life fulfilling,” said Alex Mourelatos, the son of Mary and Andreas.
Andreas and his grandson have been in Greece watching the Games, and Mary flew out to Athens this week to join them. They will remain in the country until the end of September.
“We try to go to Greece once a year, for at least a month,” said Mary before she left. “I sometimes go twice, if I can escape.”
Mary decorated the 32-room resort, and her husband was the architect who designed the hotel and helped rebuild it after a fire in 1994. At 79 and 80, they are still the active caretakers.
The lobby is adorned with family photographs, miniature Greek statues and plaques, ornate lighting fixtures and a framed movie poster of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” It’s not your average Best Western, said Alex, who spends half his time in Tahoe helping with the resort.
“We don’t like to think of ourselves as an employer, but as a family,” Alex said, referencing their warm Mediterranean hospitality.
Mary was born in Rhode Island but moved to Greece when she was 12. She and Andreas, who was born in Athens, were married there in 1954. Their wedding photo hangs above the front desk in the main lobby.
They moved to the United States after they were married with $500 between them. Now, they have a home in San Francisco, a penthouse in Athens, and a lakefront Tahoe resort.
“We worked very hard, especially for our children,” Mary said.
The Greek-American values have always been an important part of the Mourelatos family.
“We believe in respecting yourself and being proud of your background,” Mary said, mentioning the Greek word kefi, which means the love of life, as defining their mentality.
They bought property on Lake Tahoe in part because it reminded them of the landscape of Greece.
“Much of Greek culture revolves around water,” said Alex. “So Lake Tahoe feels like home for them.”
Well, not exactly like home.
“Greece is completely different from the whole world,” Mary said. “The people are very friendly and happy – they sing all the time. And they are very romantic people and very honest and proud.”
At the Olympics, Mary says she’ll be cheering for the Greek and the American athletes.
“I just want to see who is winning – it’ll be fun if it is the Greeks, or if it is the Americans,” she said.
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