Pauline Filios Adler was the quintessential mother. She wanted to mother everyone she met, and there was nothing she wouldn’t do for you. Her warmth and love touched all that knew her. She was born Panagiota Filios at home on Harrison Street in San Francisco, the eldest of five siblings. Her parents, Spiro and Eleni, were recent immigrants to America from Koroni and Kandila in Greece, and the first language she spoke was Greek. Her mother died after only a few years in America, falling victim to the global flu epidemic of 1918, which hit expectant mothers like her especially hard. Without an extended family to care for her, three-year-old Pauline learned early on to be resourceful and not to wait for others to take over. Throughout her life her family relied on her in many ways. During the Great Depression there was a time when, at age 14, she was the only one of her family to have a job. Work was scarce, but she seemed always to have it, struggling all the while to better her education. Later, she worked hard to protect her children from the difficulties she had experienced as a child, and her children were very close to her in return. Throughout her life she remained especially proud of her Greek heritage.
During World War II she was stationed in Hawaii, having been selected as one of the first women in the United States Navy. Afterward, she enrolled in Columbia University, not held back in the least by the lack of a high school diploma, the result of having left school early to help support her family. Apparently swayed by her determination, Columbia arranged for her high school qualification, after which she began university studies in business administration – preparing once more to stand before the world on her own two feet.
Shortly before departing for Columbia, Pauline met a handsome young sailor at the USO in San Francisco, where she was helping veterans like herself re-orient to civilian life. The sailor, Mark, left her his phone number, and was only too delighted a few months later to find Pauline newly relocated to his home town – New York City. When he appeared for their first date – on Valentine’s Day – with a box of chocolates, an orchid, and an invitation to her favorite restaurant, the writing was on the wall. They talked the night away, and the rest is history.
Three children later, she could no longer be separate from the siblings she had helped raise and the other members of her large California family, and Pauline and Mark along with their children settled amidst the apricot orchards of still-beautiful San Jose. She helped Mark to run a small grocery store in San Jose. They designed and built a home in Saratoga, where over the years they hosted many delightful gatherings at Christmas and other times with the many members of her extended family.
When their oldest boys were in college, Pauline and Mark moved the family to Santa Barbara, to be closer to their sons and to give in to Mark’s desire to live on the South Coast. After 19 years in Southern California, Pauline and Mark came back to San Jose to be closer to her four siblings. Her relationship with her sister Bess and Bess’s husband Gus was especially close and loving. Throughout their marriage, Pauline and Mark were completely and totally devoted to each other. Their marriage lasted 57 wonderful years, until Mark’s passing in 2003.
Pauline never gave up her hold on the joy of life, which affected all around her. Having understood the treasures of Orthodox faith later in life, she cherished her Sundays in church with her many friends there. When she grew older, the St. Nicholas community became her life, and she felt blessed to be part of it. With all her heart she stated that the kind wishes of the community following Sunday Liturgy on her 103rd birthday, made it the very best one she had ever had.