The Secret Lives of William Emmanuel Pokhias 
 My biological father was married twice. He had two different families and neither knew anything about the other.
Truth-be-told, I had no interest in this story until I received this message in April, 2011:
-----Original Message-----
From: Facebook <>
Date: Thu, 21 Apr 2011 00:03:41
To: Michael Kontras<>
Reply-to: noreply <>
Subject: Amy Pokhias sent you a message on Facebook...
Amy sent you a message.
Subject: I'm not quite sure how to begin...
(I) was doing some internet searching this evening and came across your website detailing your family history. I must say that what (I) saw on there through (me) for a loop. My grandfather's name was William E Pokhias. I have little doubt that my grandfather and the man listed on your birth certificate are the same person. While stranger things have happened, I find it hard to believe that there was more than one person by that name who would have been born in Martins Ferry, OH and who joined the military in the 1950s. Also because the last name is not common in the US and I've never heard of someone with that last name other than my family. The pictures I've seen also lead me to believe that they are the same person. You look like him and in the pictures of your band Reflection you look like my dad (my dad is William's son)
I do have some reservations about sending this message just because I'm not sure how you will receive it. I know from personal experience that getting messages on social websites from people claiming to be long lost relatives is a bit overwhelming and because you may find it unwelcome. Especially since when reading your website, you said that after the meeting with William in 1966 that there was no void to be filled by not having him in your life. I don't want anything, I just couldn't not do anything with this information and I'm reluctant to talk to my grandmother, my dad, or my uncle since I'm not sure if they know and I can't yet bring myself to talk to them about it. I guess I just wanted to introduce myself.
Also, the last part of your story made (me) laugh. You are so right about telling your sons to not be upset when someone misspells or mispronounces your last name. If I had a dollar for every time that has happened to me in my almost 30 years I would be filthy rich by now.
-Amy Pokhias
P.S. You may have noticed that I used the past tense when saying my grandfather's name. If your biological father and my grandfather are the same person, he died of a heart attack on July, 28 1991.
According to Amy, it took her nearly two hours to compose this e-mail. Needless to say, I was certainly surprised by it. Now, my curiosity was peaked.
Michael Kontras / April 21 at 8:41am
Wow! You are spot on. It would be a pleasure to say "hello." Please e-mail me at and I will give you my phone number, if you want to. Thanks for contacting me. MK
------Original Message------
To: YouTube - MKontras
Subject: Hello
Sent: Apr 21, 2011 4:00 AM
Thank you for your response. I must admit I was a bit nervous after I sent my message last night. Anyway, if you would like to send me your phone number that would be great. I do live in Arizona and with the time difference and when I get off work maybe we can chat this weekend?
-Amy Pokhias
-----Original Message-----
Date: Thu, 21 Apr 2011 15:53:52
To: <>
Subject: Re: Hello
My cell is the best way to reach me.
(614) 561-8577
Looking forward to "meeting" you.
We had an extensive conversation the following Saturday, April 23, 2011 starting around 4:30pm est. Much of what Amy said rang true. Her father (William's son) was not a good father to her and her siblings, much like his dad (William) wasn't to her dad and his siblings. She did say that her dad was trying to do better now that there is a grandchild in the mix. A second phone conversation took place on June 4, 2011. Another phone conversation took place with Amy's father in June, 2012.
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For me, this story begins on Sunday, November 26, 1950 when I was born as Michael Pokhias to William and Viola Pokhias during one of the worst snow storms Ohio has ever seen. My brother Nick was born 14 months later.
Three months after Nick's birth, William left.
We saw him once in 1956 and then again in 1966. The first encounter was brief, when we were very young - I was five years old, Nick was four. The second was over a hamburger and fries at a restaurant. I had just turned sixteen and Nick was fourteen. Neither encounter did anything to change the fact that we knew absolutely nothing about this man. Knowing what I know now, I believe that's the way he preferred it.
Over the years, we heard stories from our grandmother (on our mother's side) who lived with us, our stepfather, and of course our mother, about why the marriage didn't work. This, combined with what I've learned in the last few years, I've been able to piece together some history and a timeline.
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William Emmanuel Pokhias was born in Yorkville, Ohio on January 10, 1930 to Emmanuel and Mary Pokhias. Both of his parents were born in Italy (1897 & 1906 respectively) but met in Rhodes, Greece during the Italian Occupation of that island. Records show Emmanuel's native language was Italian but Mary's was Greek, so she must have moved to Rhodes at a very young age. Emmanuel was educated in Rhodes so his Greek was very fluent. All indications are that they were married there.
Emmanuel immigrated to the United States in 1920 to Yorkville - but Mary didn't come over until 1927. They must have moved to Martins Ferry, Ohio - which is only 5.4 miles south along the Ohio River - shortly after William was born because everyone I spoke with said William was born in Martins Ferry, Ohio. Or, it's possible that people living in that area consider Yorkville part of Martins Ferry.
Emmanuel must have had a bit of a violent streak in him. According to one of his grandchildren, Emmanuel shot two black people in his restaurant because, "…they were gettin' rowdy…". On a lighter note, he enjoyed garlic and butter sandwiches. He died of cancer in January, 1973. He was 76 years old although some in his family thought he was 82 years old at the time. Again, according to records, his birth year was 1897.
William Pokhias was the younger of two children. His older sister, Pauline - born "Polixene" on August 1, 1928 in Yorkville - and he, did not get along. As adults, Pauline and mom were very close. It was through Pauline that we learned anything at all about William. Interestingly, Pauline's husband had the same first name as her father's, "Emanuel", but it was spelled with only one "m".
William asked Pauline to never discuss his first family with his second family. Although it appears she honored his request, she was not happy about it, according to mom. Keeping William's "secret" was just one of the many reasons Pauline did not get along with her brother. It is not known if William and Pauline's parents knew anything about us. Our family never mentioned our biological grandparents on our father's side.
Military records show that at age 18, William enlisted in the Army on August 4, 1948. Before being discharged, he married mom on September 3, 1949 in Columbus, Ohio. He and mom were both nineteen years old.
He was discharged on November 8, 1949. Apparently, he lived with mom in Columbus, Ohio in the home of our grandmother, Despina Kontras, at 124 N. Hague Avenue, until he deserted all of us by re-enlisting in the Army, April 21, 1952. He was discharged again on February 4, 1954.
William developed some skills as a cobbler in his teen years. Soon after his first military discharge, mom's older brothers, Bill and Gus, loaned him over $2,000 to open up a shoe repair shop on West Broad Street in Columbus, Ohio. But, according to mom, her brothers and my grandmother, he was lazy. People complained to the family that the shop was often closed during regular business hours. Gus would stop by to see how things were going only to find the shop closed at 3 or 4 in the afternoon. According to witnesses that spoke with our mom and her brother, William could be found at the local horse track where he liked to bet on the races. I'm not sure of the timeline on the business, but it must have been somewhere between 1950 and 1952. When he re-enlisted in the Army, he left our mother with the debt, which she paid back in full.
After his second discharge, indications are that William went back to his home at 2317 Eastern Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland. When he saw Nick and I in 1956, he did call mom and asked her to bring us and join him in Baltimore. Mom said that she offered to consider it only if he had a steady job for over a year and was doing well at that job. By staying in touch with Pauline, she learned that her estranged husband did not live up to the challenge.
I'm not sure when, but at some point William ended up in Kansas City, Missouri because he was photographed in 1957 working at a shoe repair shop that was owned by two Italian brothers.
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I prefaced with this early history so that I could share what I learned from Amy and her father. I was able to speak with others, but they asked not to be named.
Where the story gets interesting is Amy's father's name.
It's "Michael".
It was a favorite name of William's second wife. Even though he knew there was a previous "first born" son named Michael Pokhias in the country, he agreed to his second "first-born" son - this time with Elsie (Christal) Pokhias - to be named the same. Obviously and true to form, he did not divulge to his second wife that he fathered another Michael Pokhias with a previous wife back in Columbus, Ohio in 1950. The "second" Michael was given the middle name of William where as I was not given a middle name.
Michael William Pokhias sent his first Facebook message to me on May 30, 2012 after learning of my conversation with his daughter in 2011:
"this is kinda wierd dont know what to say really i guess im your little half brother 51 forgive me if im bothering you just wanted to say hello and my name is michael w pokhias my daughter amy had chatted with you. dont want anything but to say will the real michael pokhias stand up lol my email is again sorry if im bothering you."
I responded the same day:
From: Michael Kontras []
Sent: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 10:48 PM
To: ''
Subject: Michael (Pokhias) Kontras
Hi Michael,
Please know that you are not bothering me by contacting me.
You are correct, Amy did "find" me (internet search) and we did chat. She filled me in on the history of our father including his health issues, which was something that interested me. I find it very interesting that he chose the name Michael for both of us. Obviously, this name must have meant something to him. I don't know if Amy told you, but my mother had my name (and my brother's) changed back to her maiden name in 1956. Although I was born Michael Pokhias, no one knows me by that name, so you are the "real" Michael Pokhias. LOL.
As I did with Amy, if you would like to talk rather than e-mail, please feel free to call. I'm usually available in the evenings (after 6:00pm est) except on the nights when I'm performing or rehearsing with the band. It would certainly be an interesting conversation.
Thanks for contacting me.
Michael Kontras
After a few more Facebook messages back and forth, the current - and only - Michael Pokhias and I finally spoke for about two and a half hours by phone on June 23, 2012 at approximately 2:10pm est. At the time, he lived in Arizona. He has since moved to Texas. He goes by the nickname "Poke".
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Our biological father was a charming and engaging person who often told very entertaining stories that were not always true. He was well-liked by those who did not know him well. For instance, when he lived in Columbia, Missouri, he frequented a restaurant called the "G&B Steakhouse". The owner and staff loved him. (Think "Norm" from the TV show, "Cheers".) According to our stepfather, he was "a lot of fun" to be around. It is certainly odd that our biological father and our stepfather were friends and both named William with the first initial of their last names "P". One was married to mom at that time and the other one would marry her about ten years later.
William kept secrets, and it appears he took many of them to his grave on July 28, 1991, including the secret of our entire family. It seems our family was eventually known to William's second family, but not until after he passed. They never told their mother (Elsie) about us until after I spoke with Michael Pokhias in 2012. According to Michael, when he showed her the story I posted on my blog, his 74 year old mother responded with, and I quote, "That-son-of-a-bitch!" Yet, according to Amy, Michael's daughter, Elsie still misses William to this day.
William did not like to work. He dabbled in various businesses including shoe repair and restaurant management, but for the most part, lived off of VA Disability Benefits. He managed this after having sustained back injuries while on maneuvers in the Army (the second time) and once discharged, convincing the Veterans Administration that he was experiencing enough discomfort in his lower extremities that he was unable to work. Some family members say he claimed paraplegia. In any case, he convinced the VA that he needed to receive disability benefits.
This and credit cards were his primary "income". He was also prescribed narcotics for pain (Morphine and Flexeril) which ultimately became addictions. Because of these actions, Elsie was left with debt when he passed, much like our mom was when he left us. As of 2011, she was still doing manual labor as a domestic kitchen worker.
According to Michael, his dad was not actually discharged from the service after he injured his back, but instead was transferred to the Army's Criminal Investigation Division (C.I.D.), although military records show otherwise. Michael says his dad led a secret life, possibly with the C.I.A., after being with the C.I.D. He states that William could speak seven languages fluently and that he spent a lot of time in Saudi Arabia. Michael also states that he remembers his father being "…very elusive and secretive…" as if he was leading a "…double life…".
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As a father, William left a bit to be desired. He had a temper, and much of that was directed toward Michael. He blamed Michael for the death of his second son, Gregory, who was hit by a school bus while waiting at the bus stop when the family lived in Cornville, AZ. (Gregory and other children were "rough-housing" at the bus stop when one of the kids pushed him into the street. Michael was there, but was not able to do anything to prevent it.) William was reportedly overheard saying that he wished it had been Michael - not Gregory - that was killed. Yet, Michael says that he and his father didn't have their first fight until he was 17 years old.
Amy and her father agree there was a sudden move from Columbia, Missouri to Cornville, Arizona in 1971. There are conflicting stories about William's employment during this period.
Some say William was unable to hold onto a job for any length of time and over the years, accumulated a lot of debt. Speculation has it that he was running away from creditors who were calling all the time. Michael, who was about ten years old at the time, only remembers being upset that the family had to move so suddenly. Then, William again had to leave very suddenly, this time, from Cornville to Yavapai County, AZ where he supposedly became a police officer. I don't know when this second "move" took place, but it was probably in the 1980s.
Obviously, William's general health was not good. He smoked heavily (non-filtered Camels). He was not a drinker, but drank a lot of coffee. He enjoyed cooking high-fat foods. Breakfast, for example might very well consist of biscuits and gravy, eggs, pancakes or waffles and lots of bacon.
Not surprisingly, he experienced his first heart attack in 1973, at age 43, that resulted in quadruple bypass surgery in 1978. This did nothing to change his eating and smoking habits. In 1991, he had a second heart attack that took his life. He was 61 years old.
Adam, my oldest son, thought that my brother Nick looks like our biological father. You decide.
It appears that William and I had the same taste in automobiles back in the 1970s, right down to the CB radio. Pictured below is my mid-70s Chevy Impala (on the right) photographed in 1980 and his mid-70s Chevy Impala photgraphed in the early 1980s.
From the side, both cars have the same side moldings, side view mirrors, door handles and door locks. Note the CB antennas.
Other than this interesting tidbit, it appears we had nothing in common.
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So that's it. I was the first of two people named "Michael Pokhias" fathered by William E. Pokhias and my brother Nick and I have/had grandparents that were born in Italy. We have two step brothers, one deceased step-brother, two nieces, one nephew, five cousins (children of Pauline Pokhias & Emanuel Papademetriou), and one great niece that we will probably never get to know. Unfortunately, we never had the chance to know our Aunt Pauline and Uncle Emanuel who were, by all indications, wonderful people. Emanuel passed in 1991 and Pauline passed in 2013.
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I attempted to assemble this story from census, military and marriage records along with conversations from here-to-fore unknown relatives that were not always in agreement with the facts. I did my best to find reasonable answers to some of my questions during those conversations. I also created a timeline for those who might be interested in the chronological order of this history. My intent is only to inform. Not malign or judge. My hope is that those who come after me will have some documentation about their ancestors on my biological father's side of the family.
Thank you for taking the time to read this page, which I completed on Father's Day, June 15, 2014.