This message and comment on the late Mary Boutselis Sampas was written by our friend Mehmed Ali. With his permission it is reprinted here:
Brother Tony,I heard that our own Gal Friday Mary Boutselis Sampas passed away yesterday. Last time I was home in October we had a chance to visit her with Lom, Sivang and her kids, Marina, Peter, and Sara and John Boutselis. We celebrated Lom’s ninth birthday with pizza and cake and the youngsters gathered for a quick pic ’round the matriarch. There was a faux fashion show by the girls to which Mary provided commentary – describing in detail the dazzling make-believe dresses of the mini Tenth Street Runway divas.We always marveled how great she was doing everytime we went there. At 93, she would complain for about three and a half minutes about a few aches and pains and then spend two hours laughing and reminiscing and intently asking questions about her guest’s views on the world. Never a bore nor stiff with a jaded view of life, Mary defied age as ever a person could. She was filled with new stories everytime I saw her and her memory for details amazed me as only a few have done.I so enjoyed her wry in-person editorial on the city’s movers and shakers which of course contrasted her pleasant publicly printed plugs of everything Lowell. What an amazing run the Sampas lineage has had with Lowell linotype. Words – hundreds of thousands of them -cut a large swath from her typewriter in most often unusual but careful combinations. I loved the fact that she still picked away at some old semi-automatic (which at one time I unsuccesfully tried to find her ribbon cartridges for on the internet) and then the hard copy was whisked downtown to be rekeyed by some young Sunscribe into digital format for a Tuesday column.Last Fall, the editors had cut her back to a twice a month format but Mary didn’t seem to take it personal even though they just sent her a letter informing her of the change instead of giving her a call as they should have. She wasn’t really concerned that she was being pushed from the paper’s pages either, her only thought was that it might affect how the non-profits would receive the coverage they deserved.It has been a long road from the time in the mid-1930s where Smitty Powers, the Wire Editor for Lowell’s Great Newspaper and Mary’s mutual friend through the owner of Market Street’s Parthenon Restaurant, met Ms. Boutselis and asked her to write a column of “Greek News.” Her first news story was about a church bazaar…one day we need to find that copy in the microfilm. Thousands have been featured since – including me. Mary was a big booster of mine over the years writing of Historical Society events; my Phnom Penh wedding; exhibits on Brad Morse, the Kennedys, Syrians, Italians, and more; and my travels from South Africa to Iraq all along providing true poetry on the page.We have both lamented that Mary’s writings over the last decade have slowly moved away from the memorable “color columns” about Lowell-Life to a heavier reliance on name-dropping of the city’s elite benefactors. I remember we were there at the Mogan one day when one old Aegean-hatted, acrid Acre-ite criticized her for not covering the “common man.” Mary just waved him off sort of telling him to go write his own column. She was right. She was the inspired force, not him. Critics are many, creators are few. With three quarters of a century under her belt who was he or we to tell her what she should relate to the readers….she was and will forever be the permanently pertinent Pertinax.