Artemis Garoufalidis (Onassis) (c.1902 - 1981)

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Death: Died
Managed by: Ric Dickinson
Last Updated:

About Artemis Garoufalidis (Onassis)

When Onassis had first visited Newport in 1968, he was accompanied not only by his daughter but his closest sister. Artemis Onassis, the compassionate older sister of Ari who befriended Jackie Kennedy. (original photographer unknown)

Artemis Onassis Garoufalidis , the compassionate older sister of Ari who befriended Jackie Kennedy. (original photographer unknown)

Of Ari’s three sisters, Meropi Konialidis and Kalliroe Patronikolas were by his widowed father’s second wife. His full sister Artemis was two years his senior and a welcome and frequent visitor to Skorpios. She lived with her husband Theodore )in a villa on Vassileo Georgiou in Glyfada, close to Ellinikon the Athens airport. The daily sound of planes ascending and landing didn’t bother her, she joked, because it reminded her how fortunate she was to have a brother who owned his own airline.

Thin, nervous and highly fashionable, Artemis took the tragedies that hit her life to heart: her family’s displacement and loss of fortune when she was young; the early death of her mother Penelope, the birth of a child with mental disabilities. Upon arrival in Greece for her wedding, Jackie Kennedy was welcomed by her sister-in-law Artemis. (Argentia)

Upon arrival in Greece for her wedding, Jackie Kennedy was welcomed by her sister-in-law Artemis. (Argentia)

Always protective and supportive of her brother “Aristo,” as she called him, Artemis had a more patient and nuanced understanding of human nature than he did. She was extraordinarily humorous and hospitable.

Artemis had first met Jackie Kennedy when the First Lady and her sister Lee were guests on the Christina in October of 1963 and offered her a compassionate empathy following the death two months earlier of her infant son Patrick, a welcome warmth Jackie never forgot. When Mrs. Kennedy arrived in Greece for her wedding, it was Artemis who was there to embrace and whisk her away, shooing off reporters and paparazzi. Artemis Onassis between her brother and Maria Callas, his mistress, on his yacht in Venice the day Callas announced her divorce and Onassis left his wife. (Corbis)

Artemis Onassis between her brother and Maria Callas, his mistress, on his yacht in Venice the day Callas announced her divorce and Onassis left his wife. (Corbis)

A garden path connected Artemis’s Glyfada house to the one Ari Onassis kept there; her home was always the gathering place of the extended family. The matriarch filtered out the frauds who sought to infiltrate her brother’s circle and served as a maternal figure for her niece Christina, who lived in a suite at her aunt’s house

Artemis was relieved when Ari and Jackie married, never trusting his lover Maria Callas and never stopped imploring Alex and Christina to be more civil to their stepmother. Eleven days after her brother married Jackie Kennedy, Artemis Onassis welcomed her new sister-in law back to Athens. (Corbis)

Eleven days after her brother married Jackie Kennedy, Artemis Onassis welcomed her new sister-in law back to Athens. (Corbis)

With Ari so often speeding out to the nearby airport and flying off to do business deals at points all over the world, it was Artemis who acted as a guide for Jackie Onassis who wanted to begin exploring Athens. Artemis and Jackie Onassis strolling an open-air Athens market, checking out a stand of ocean sponges.

Artemis and Jackie Onassis strolling an open-air Athens market, checking out a stand of ocean sponges.

Her sister-in-law’s encouragement of her curiosity about the history and architecture of different parts of the city even led the former First Lady to revive her political lobbying skill for a public issue which would remain of lifelong concern to her.

As the American First Lady, Jackie Kennedy had famously helped save the rows of historic building on the east and west blocks which faced Lafayette Square, the White House facing it from the south, across the street. There had been a federal order to demolish these to make room for desperately needed office space for workers in the executive branch. The challenge which she successfully sought to address was a way to keep the historic character of this important public park where generations of people had gathered in times of national crisis and celebration, but to also have it serve the practical needs of contemporary society.

Little did she then know how that experience would now serve her in saving some Greek history while permitting the commerce of the present to flourish.

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