Angie Papadakis is one of those rare people whose life will inevitably be
measured by the powerful impact she’s had on the lives of others.
Born to Greek parents, who immigrated to the United States in the early 20th century, Mrs. Papadakis was raised in Los Angeles, and is the embodiment of the ever illusive “American Dream”.
Wishing for “strong, strapping Greek sons”, but instead being blessed with 3 daughters, young Angie’s parents were not so much disappointed, as frightened, because three daughters meant they would have to provide three dowries. With this in mind, education and perseverance were recurring themes in her childhood household, and they would continue to shape Angie’s philosophy on life.
An accomplished violinist, Angie, as a young girl, was cast in the Shirley Temple classic, Little Miss Broadway. Playing the violin as a member of the orchestra, she also had the opportunity to speak one line: As Shirley Temple attempts to escape from the orphanage, it is young Angie, looking out of the window, who exclaims, “But what’ll I tell the matron?!”
Eventually, Angie met, and fell in love, with Ernest “Tom” Papadakis, the youngest son from a proud Greek family. Mrs. Papadakis is fond of saying that after all her parents worrying about a dowry for her; she “met a man who only wanted me for myself”. Becoming the proud parents of three sons, they lived and loved together happily, until Mr. Papadakis’s death 5 years ago.
As was the societal norm in those days, Mrs. Papadakis was a stay-at-home mother. Though she devoted the vast majority of her time to raising her children, she still indulged her creative side. Writing scripts for cartoonists featured in such well-known publications as Cosmopolitan and Playboy, she was able to earn a modest income and sooth her creative spirit simultaneously.
Even though Mrs. Papadakis had accomplished much in her life by the time her sons were adults, after they flew the nest is when she really came into her own.
As education has always been one of her driving forces, when given the opportunity, it was a natural progression for Papadakis to devote countless hours ensuring that students – regardless of race, gender, religion, or creed – received a quality education. She accomplished this by serving four terms on the Los Angeles County Board of Education beginning in 1978—serving as both vice- president and president—before being appointed to the California Board of Education in 1983.
However, on the state board is where she faced controversy.
Fighting Supervisor Willie Brown over the use of Spanish textbooks to teach Hispanic students, Mrs. Papadakis believed that the Board was in the pocket of text book companies who earned large amounts of money to create multi-language textbooks for students for whom English was not a first language. She believed that these immigrants came to the United States to create better lives for themselves, and deserved to have access to all the tools that would ensure their success. Because she refused to soften her stance, she was not re-appointed to the State Board, and she returned to the Los Angeles County Board in 2002. It is a decision that she does not regret; on the contrary, it is one she is most proud of in her life.
Mrs. Papadakis has been involved in several charitable organizations including serving on the boards of the Salvation Army and United Way; and she has been recognized for her dedication to the County of Los Angeles, as well as the South Bay Community.
She was awarded the Woman of the Year Award (2007) by the Los Angeles County Commission; Woman of the Year for the 51st Assembly District; Salvation Army Sage of the Year; South Bay Woman of the Year; Boy Scouts Citizen of the Year; Long Beach City College’s Senior Citizen of the Year; and an “Amicus Collegii” Award from Los Angeles Harbor College.
When asked what she wants her legacy to be, Mrs. Papadakis’s response was simple, yet profound:
“My parents were courageous enough to come here to America, and I am blessed to have been born in the greatest country in the world. I am blessed to be an American. Education is the pathway to everything wonderful. There is nothing like knowing that you know something and no one can take that away from you. When you know how to find out what you don’t know, you’re an educated person. My parents’ one wish was that we would have a better life in America, and that is what we have had; and that is what I wish for everyone else.”
Mrs. Angie Papadakis: An American Hero in our South Bay Community.