The Manios brothers from Warren have key roles in the organization.
WARREN -- Franklin Manios of Warren is at the center of what he admits had been "the biggest secret of the world."
Manios, 72, owner of Franklin Pharmacy in Warren, is the supreme president of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA).
Now, the word is out.
Nearing the end of his one-year term in July, his leadership caps several decades of involvement in the organization, to which he volunteered time as a national vice chairman, secretary, governor and director.
"I've been involved for 50 years. This is the pinnacle," he said.
From Warren's Zeus Chapter 88 on Youngstown Road S.E., he leads the chapters of about 25,000 Greeks and friends worldwide. Chapter 88's membership is 300 men.
AHEPA is the largest and oldest American-based Greek heritage grass-roots membership organization.
AHEPA was founded in 1922 in Atlanta, Ga., to fight bigotry and to teach Greeks new to the states how to be good American citizens. "Now we're in every state except Alaska and Hawaii," Manios noted.
The organization now counts among its members judges and senators, to name a few. The changing times have led AHEPA to alter its focus.
"Now we want to teach the Greek Americans -- my kids -- not to forget their roots," said Manios of Wildwood Drive N.E., whose three children have all stayed local.
AHEPA's mission is to promote the ideas of Hellenism, education, philanthropy, civic responsibility and family and individual excellence.
The AHEPA family also consists of Daughters of Penelope, Sons of Pericles and Maids of Athena.
Manios said there are some 500 AHEPA chapters, mostly in the United States; others are in Greece, Cyprus and Canada. His travels this year have included Cyprus, Athens and Istanbul, to name a few.
"I've been all over," he said. The traveling began in earnest after delegates from the AHEPA chapters elected him in Miami last July.
Manios said he does not intend to seek a second term. "I've got about three trips to go ... I'm going to take a break," he said.
Service of honor
Both brothers agreed that Franklin Manios' AHEPA leadership from here has been kept under the radar. That doesn't mean they've been lying low, however.
For example, the brothers participated in a recent wreath-laying ceremony on Memorial Day in Arlington National Cemetery.
Franklin Manios is a Marine Corps veteran.
His brother Michael Manios, a Navy veteran, is AHEPA's education foundation vice chairman. That foundation has $3 million in assets and awarded 100 scholarships last year.
AHEPA chapters have performed this ceremony annually since 1949.
"It is a unique and powerfully moving experience," said Franklin Manios, who reflected during the ceremony on the Marine Corps servicemen with whom he served in the mid-1950s.
"It is especially meaningful to perform this ceremony at this time in our nation's history, when our brave men and women are in harm's way," he said. "This is one of the greatest honors anyone can perform and a small way of expressing our community's gratitude to our fallen heroes."
AHEPA paid its respects on behalf of the Greek American community at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington.
With the Manios brothers were retired Army Col. Nicholas P. Vamvakias and retired Navy Capt. Demosthenes N. Kolaras of the Greater Washington area.
AHEPA notes that there are roughly 440 gravesites of those identified as Greek-Americans or Greek Orthodox who are buried at Arlington.
For more information visit www.ahepa.org.