John Christopher Theofanis, Jr. (June 27, 1949 - June 2, 2019)
The first-born son of John Christopher Theofanis, Sr. and Beatriz Theofanis, John Christopher Theofanis, Jr. was delivered on June 27, 1949 at Women’s Hospital in New York City, the same hospital where his father had been born 24 years earlier. He was summarily whisked to his Aunt Carmen’s apartment on the Upper West Side to be admired by a doting circle of relatives - Greek-American on the paternal side, Spanish-American on the maternal.
The young family lived on the Lower East Side, in Manhattan and Rockaway, Queens, adding a brother George and a sister Anne (Kasschau) before settling in Massapequa, New York. John Sr. worked as a school psychologist and college professor and Beatriz later taught English as a Second Language. In 1967, John graduated from Berner High School, where he was a highly-ranked student, a starter on the varsity basketball team, and named Junior Prom King.
He attended Brown University during a dynamic time of student activism, including the development of the “New Curriculum” which eliminated core requirements outside of a student’s major, and graduated in 1971 with a degree in English Literature.
Following graduation, John traveled to Athens, Greece, where he taught English and lived in an apartment near the Acropolis where the sound of bouzouki music streamed up from nearby cafes.
In Europe, he met Larkin Tom, an expatriate Texan living in Rome, and they relocated to Austin, Texas, where their daughter Rosa Theofanis was born in 1975. There, they found a close group of friends with a shared interest in natural foods, the cooperative movement, and all that seventies Austin had to offer.
Through the years, John worked as a sports writer, waiter, and middle school English teacher. He was awarded an academic fellowship and an MFA degree in film from the University of Texas before settling in as an academic advisor at the same university. He was most proud of his work in the TIP Scholars Program in the College of Natural Sciences promoting the success and graduation rates of students. He was recognized for his outstanding advising work with the James W. Vick Award for Academic Advising and received many letters of gratitude, as well as some wedding invitations, from former advisees.
In 1995, John was introduced by a mutual friend to his future wife Mona Appling, and they were married under the live oaks in South Austin in October 1997. John and Mona moved into their first house together and hosted comfortable gatherings there, with their dogs, Suzy and Mojo. Their loving and devoted relationship provided a supportive haven for friends and family alike.
John retired at age 62, jumping into retired life with both feet. During this time, he was able to spend time with his family in New York and Los Angeles, hone his speech making at Toastmasters, and finish a novel. He developed the tradition of “Pappy Day,” an occasion to pick up his grandchildren Dashiell and Astrid Wilcox after school. During this time, he also traveled with friends and family, including to Missoula, Montana, Portland, Oregon, Spain, and France.
John was endlessly creative, in ways large and small. He was an avid filmmaker and photographer, hosted a local access TV show, wrote screenplays and a novel, painted, developed a stand-up comedy routine, and even named his own neighborhood: “LoBu” for “Lower Burnet.”
He was the family historian and edited letters his aunt Liberty Lopez wrote to her family from Spain during 1934 -1936, just before the Spanish Civil War. John thought these letters were a treasure and wanted to publish the final collection, Letters from Libby.
He was a proud and devoted son, brother, husband, father, uncle, and grandfather, attending graduations from preschool to grad school, saving newspaper clippings, and documenting as many moments as possible on film and in photos. He took every opportunity to pepper kids (not just his relatives) with questions about popular culture, their lives and interests.
John had a talent for friendship, holding on to close friends from youth and making many more along the way: at work, in social clubs, in the dentist’s chair, with contractors, and anywhere else he encountered people.
In September 2017, John was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer. He responded to his difficult prognosis with a social and creative flowering, deepening his connections to family and friends and developing as a painter, eventually putting on two art shows during the period of his illness. Thanks to his wife Mona’s careful and compassionate care and his own bravery in undergoing difficult but life-extending treatments, John was able to celebrate his twenty-year wedding anniversary in October 2017 and officiate at his niece’s wedding in October 2018. His focus and fortitude during this time set an example of grace under duress.
John is survived by his wife, Mona Appling, parents, Dr. and Mrs. John C. Theofanis, daughter, Rosa Theofanis, and son-in-law, Nathan Wilcox, grandchildren, Dashiell and Astrid Wilcox, brother, George Theofanis, and sister, Anne Kasschau, sisters-in law, Tess Garcia Theofanis and Gussie Richerson, brothers-in-law, Mark Kasschau, Sr., Mark Appling, and Darrell Richerson, aunt, Maria Theofanis, uncle, Chris Theofanis, nephews Patrick, Robert, and Eric Theofanis, Mark Kasschau, Jr. and Josh Richerson, nieces Margaret Rollins, Mariel Kasschau, and Raquel Theofanis, and six great-nieces and great-nephews.
A memorial will be held Sunday, June 30, 2019 at 3:00 p.m. at Chateau Bellevue, 708 San Antonio St., Austin, Texas.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network at www.pancan.org