Fr. Vasilios Lokis - A Short Biography
- Written by Jim Lucas
Parent Category: History
Last Updated on 02 December 2013
Father Vasilios Lokis, 1938
Father Lokis was a significant figure in San Francisco Greek history. He served Holy Trinity for four months in 1936 and then Annunciation Cathedral 1936 - 1943. His actions brought significant changes that affected the Bay Area Greek community for decades.
Father Lokis was born in 1899 and he was from Stratinista. His first name was Michael and he later adopted the name Basil (Vasilios). He was educated at the Theological School in Halki. He continued his theological studies at the National University of Athens and was graduated from the theological school of the university in 1923. He was a brilliant speaker and spoke Greek, English, French, Arabic, Turkish, and German. Father Lokis arrived in the United States on November 1, 1923 and was later reunited with his older brother George who had immigrated to the United States in 1916 and settled in Boston area. We have no historical data for Father Lokis from 1923 to 1931. In 1931, Fr. Lokis was assigned to St. Spyridon in New York City and served until his arrival in San Francisco in 1936.
Holy Trinity was founded in March 1904. In 1921, members of the Greek community formed another church which they named Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral. The community purchased all of lots on the west side of Pierce street from Hayes to Fell Streets. In April 1928, the St. Sophia community purchased the Valencia Street Theater at 245 Valencia Street. The community started to use the building as a church early 1929. After the 1929 stock market crash & ensuing depression their financial situation worsened. The community could not make payments on their loans. They fell behind on their mortgage payments and the Bank of Italy filed a "Notice of Default and Election to Sell" in July 1935. In December 1935 Bank of Italy purchased the building at a foreclosure auction for $25,000. The Bank of Italy charged the community $100 per month rent for the use of the property.
Father Lokis arrived at Holy Trinity in May 1936. Fr. Tsapralis was getting close to retirement and the intent was to have an assistant priest who would take over after Fr. Tsapralis retired.
When Father Lokis arrived he saw a Greek community in turmoil. It was the Great Depression. Five months earlier, the Bank of Italy bought St. Sophia in a foreclosure auction. During this period Annunciation's parish council became increasingly dissatisfied with their priest, Fr. Sypridon Spyropoulos. They wanted a dynamic priest to guide the community through this difficult period. At Holy Trinity, the parish council was discussing the need to plan for uniting Saint Sophia parishioners under Holy Trinity after bankruptcy.
Father Lokis' solution was to try to unite the churches in San Francisco. Father Lokis believed very strongly that the two communities should be together and he started a campaign to unite Annunciation and Holy Trinity. Holy Trinity's parish council was not in favor of merging the two churches. According to Holy Trinity's parish council minutes, parish council members claimed that Father Lokis tried to appoint board members that were pro-unification without an election by the parish assembly. Parish council members were angered. When Father Lokis spoke to the congregation regarding unification, members of Holy Trinity's parish council felt his speeches were inflammatory and incited anger and rioting. The president of Holy Trinity’s parish council, Anastasios Haritsis, wrote letters and sent telegrams to the Archdiocese requesting his removal.
Holy Trinity's parish council filed a restraining order on July 1, 1936 preventing Father Lokis from entering Holy Trinity property. In court, William Petros represented Father Lokis and William Dorn represented Holy Trinity. Several injunctions were filed before litigation ended October 23, 1936. The court requested that both communities vote to determine what they wanted. Both churches took a vote for unification in 1936. Annunciation voted for unification and Holy Trinity voted against unification. Several Saint Sophia parishioners suspected that Holy Trinity's vote for unification was falsified to oppose unification. That point is brought out in Peter Boudoures' memoirs. However, there is no evidence to support that finding.
Father Lokis was dismissed by Holy Trinity as a part of the legal settlement. Members of Annunciation’s parish council sent telegrams and wrote letters to the Archdiocese requesting Father Lokis. Father Lokis was hired by Annunciation. Father Sypropoulos moved to San Diego, where under his leadership, the San Diego church thrived. Holy Trinity hired Rev. Dionysios Demessianos, who had been defrocked by the Archdiocese years earlier and had been servicing independent parishes. Father Tsapralis, who had been with Holy Trinity since the beginning, moved to Annunciation with the permission of the Archdiocese. Over half of Holy Trinity's parishioners left and joined Annunciation. It was the beginning of a very difficult period for Holy Trinity until the arrival of Fr. George Paulson in 1949.
Under Father Lokis' leadership Annunciation prospered. Within one year they bought the church back from Bank of Italy, and reorganized as the "United Greek Orthodox Community of San Francisco, the Annunciation." Father Lokis was a dynamic speaker and he quickly increased attendance. Within a few years Annunciation paid off their debts and they started to renovate the facilities. During World War II, Greek War Relief events were held at Annunciation. Anastasios Mountanos, the founder of the California Greek-language newspaper broadcasted weekly over the radio at Annunciation. Members of the community recall Christmas concerts where the attendance was so large people stood outside in the street listening to the music.
Father Lokis wanted to become a bishop. He expressed this desire to prominent members of the Greek community. In Peter Boudouros' memoirs, he stated that Father Lokis had every piece of clothing needed for the day he would become bishop. That day never came.
Father Lokis left Annunciation in 1943 and joined the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), the precursor of the present day Central Intelligence Agency. A Holy Trinity parishioner who was in the Navy and stationed in Washington DC recalls Father Lokis reporting for duty. Father Lokis was uniquely qualified for this assignment. He left for Egypt. As a cover for his military duties, he was given the title "Grand Chancellor of the Patriarchate of Alexandra.
After the war was over Father Lokis wanted the Patriarchate of Alexandria to make him a bishop. He was not made a bishop and he decided to return to the United States. He traveled to California to stay with his nephew Athanasios, George Lokis' son, who had settled in Monterey, CA. During this time, Father Lokis sent telegrams to the Archdiocese requesting permission to perform sacraments and his requests were denied. He suffered a heart attack while in California and made a full recovery. After his recovery, the entire family decided to move to the east coast.
Father Lokis served at St. Spyridon in New York City (1950-1953). Father Lokis passed away Saturday, Oct. 31, 1953 due to a heart attack suffered while working at the church (see obituary). He was 54 years old. He was interred at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York City.
Acknowledgements: Athanasios Lokis' son Demetrios became a priest and served ten parishes before retiring. He currently resides in New York. This article would not have been possible without him.
Contents copyright : Jim Lucas & Greek Historical Society of the San Francisco Bay Area