Anna was born in Athens, Greece to Eleni Katras and Stavros Lambrinidis, refugees from Smyrna. She graduated from the American Pierce College in Athens and served as interpreter after the war. In 1955 she married Sperry Lea, economist, philanthropist and descendant of a family of celebrated American inventors including his grandfather Elmer Sperry (gyroscope) and uncle Lawrence Sperry (first autopilot). She lived in Washington, DC for over 60 years. She leaves behind her children, Helena Lea-Bastille, R. Brooke Lea, her grandson Jackson Sperry Lea, her nieces Yanna, Athena, and Christiana Lambrinidou, and nephew Stavros Lambrinidis.
From the 70s and onwards, Anna became highly involved in political and philanthropic issues in the DC area. SPGH was her main life opus. Anna was its heart and soul for over twenty years and, for the largest part of the last decade until her death, she was SPGH’s President. Among the numerous accomplishments of SPGH in Anna’s time was the acquisition from the Ward Gallery and repatriation of the Mycenaean treasure of Aidonia to Greece. Anna also rallied hard with SPGH for the return of the Olympic Games to Athens.
With Anna’s vision, the original preservationist mission of SPGH that had focused on projects inside Greece widened to deal with the ecumenical values of Hellenism at the core of modern Western civilization: democracy, theater, statesmanship, and ethics.
Anna organized and supervised many of the related SPGH activities including lectures and symposia and a long list of publications. She was a tireless rouser of people’s conscience for the current crisis of western civilization and the lessons Greek history and culture can offer to deal with the problem. For these and other related contributions Anna was decorated by the President of the Hellenic Republic, Konstantinos Stephanopoulos, with the Cross of the Order of Beneficence. In 2008 she also received The Hellenic Heritage Achievement Award from the American Hellenic Institute.
On a personal level, I had the privilege of spending a lot of precious time with Anna and her unforgettable husband Sperry, who we also lost some time before Anna’s passing. Anna was a quintessential Greek matriarch who was born into and survived the turbulence in 20th century Greece: a remarkable trajectory from her Asia Minor refugee parents as they transitioned in continental Greece and then from the professional middle class forming in Athens after the Greek civil war to the heart of Washington DC.
With the ever patient support of Sperry Anna was, in the height of her life, one of the central figures of the Greek diaspora in DC. Anna and Sperry had created a buzzing niche-of-a-household where Americans and Greeks from all walks of life and political persuasion would mingle and make friends and debate—debate was Anna’s most precious social pastime.
Anna was very weary of the folklorisation of Hellenism in America, what she called “spinach pie Hellenism”—and not because she did not like spinach pie. Her SPGH was the vehicle for this vision. I will never forget her or her “Sperry side” and, carrying the SPGH baton forward, we will do all we can to advance that same vision.
Vassilis Koliatsos, M.D.