‘I’m a proud Kytherian’: This is the life story of 94-year-old Stephen Zantiotis

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“I never had an opportunity to be naughty. I can say I stayed squeaky clean until I got married,” 94-year-old Kytherian, Stephen Zantiotis, tells The Greek Herald with a charismatic laugh.

As I sit down to interview one of the oldest members of the Kytherian Association of Australia (KAA), I can instantly tell that beneath Stephen’s cheeky sense of humour is a man who has led a hard yet interesting life.

Born in 1928 in the rural New South Wales town of Weston to Kytherian migrants, Stephen was one of three sons. His oldest brother died at a young age from diphtheria.

Stephen’s dad worked with his brothers in a café in Weston and they also owned a gymnasium and billiard saloon. The family later moved to the Wollongong suburb of Dapto where they opened another café.

When I ask Stephen what life was like growing up Greek in a rural town, he answers: “It wasn’t too bad.”

“The town was small. The townspeople embraced dad,” he added. “Later on, dad became a Freemason and then I joined the Freemasons as well and we were respected in Dapto.”

Dapto cafe. Stephen is on the left.

‘Life wasn’t easy’:

In Stephen’s spare time, when he wasn’t helping his dad at the café or going to school, he was also an avid fan of classical music and learnt to play the violin.

“Dad had my brother and I learn the violin but my brother wouldn’t practice. I liked it,” Stephen explains.

“Dad must’ve had early plans for me because I’ve got a full-size violin that he bought which was too big for me to play when I was little but I’ve still got it today.”

Stephen and his brother playing the violin.

Ultimately, Stephen’s musical talent saw him join the City of Wollongong Symphony Orchestra.

But that wasn’t all he got up to in his younger years.

In the 60s and 70s, Stephen owned a number of race horses because, as he says, “I loved horses and animals, being one myself of course.”

Stephen owned race horses.

He also became a taxi driver for many years, supported along the way by his wife Anna – who he married in 1956.

Stephen and Anna on their wedding day.

“My dad saw a need for a taxi service in Dapto and helped my brother and I get a taxi each. This is something I did for most of my life,” Stephen says.

“Before two-way radio was installed, Anna used to wait in the street to give me bookings, so what I did was I bought a two-way radio and had that installed so that Anna could contact me.

“It was very interesting. In the city maybe you’d be lucky to see the same person again, but in a small town you knew everything that was going on.

“But it wasn’t easy. You can imagine back in those days things were pretty primitive… I didn’t have time for holidays, I can assure you.”

‘I’m a proud Kytherian’:

Despite this limited time for holidays, Stephen was able to visit Greece and the Greek island of Kythera two times with Anna and their three children – Barbara, Steve and Peter.

“It was very different to Australia,” he says.

“It was nice to go and have a look… I’m a proud Kytherian but I was born here [in Australia], this is my country.”

This strong connection to both Australia and Kythera has even filtered through to his daughter Barbara who was recently appointed the first-ever female President of the KAA.

Stephen and Anna with their daughter, Barbara (centre).

When I ask Stephen his thoughts on this achievement, as well as the Association’s centenary celebrations this year, he says “it’s a wonderful thing” and he couldn’t be prouder.

“Barbara is a proud Kytherian and she does it with her heart,” he concludes with a smile. “My dad was one of the early members of the Association and now look at the Kytherians!”

READ MORE: ‘It’s nostalgic’: 100 years of memories at the Kytherian Association of Australia’s family day.

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