Pota Vurnakes Vallas

September 14, 1908December 12, 2017

Mrs. Pota Vurnakes Vallas passed away peacefully at home on December 12, 2017 at the age of 109 surrounded by her loving family. She was a loving wife, mother, sister, and a pioneering entrepreneur and businesswoman.

Mrs. Vallas was born in 1908 in Krissafa, Greece, a small village near Sparta, the eldest of 10 children, Panayiota “Pota.” In 1924, Pota’s father, who was Raleigh’s first Greek immigrant, Gus Vurnakes, brought Pota to the United States where she assisted him at the California Fruit Store on Fayetteville Street. At only 16 years of age with no English proficiency, she made homemade ice cream and chocolates, which were delivered via horse-drawn wagon to leading homes and businesses. The remainder of Pota’s family fled to Raleigh in 1939 only months before the Axis Occupation of Greece.

In 1927, she married her husband and fellow immigrant, the late George Theodore Vallas before the onset of the Great Depression, which wrought devastation on the Vurnakes and Vallas families. They lost their home, life savings, and the California Fruit Store. It was in the midst of the Great Depression that Pota displayed her innate Greek resolve to succeed. She applied to work for the Singer Sewing Company in 1931 and quickly emerged as a talented salesperson and manager.

During the Depression, Pota, George, and many other Greek families established a small Orthodox Church in downtown Raleigh. In due time, Pota and George purchased land and built a home on Leadmine Road. With Raleigh’s Greek population growing rapidly, Pota and George donated land for the construction of the new Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church that still stands today on the corner of Leadmine Road and French Drive.

Pota’s dream of opening her own business became a reality when in 1944 she traveled to Chicago with husband George and acquired the distributorship of the National Sewing Machine Company. Her many buying trips to New York inspired her creative mind and talents, which blossomed into one of North Carolina’s leading interior design firms. To accommodate the growing business, George purchased the three-story brick building for Pota at the corner of Hillsborough Street and Glenwood Avenue. National Art Interiors became a landmark for the finest furniture and fabric companies, furnishing many of the finest homes and businesses in North Carolina including First Citizens Banks and Capital Broadcasting Company. Pota worked at National Art Interiors with her daughters and other family members until she retired at the age of 94 in 2002.

Pota served on the Boards of First Citizens Bank and the North Carolina Community Foundation. She was a life-long member of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and a member of Philoptochos. She was honored with the Saint Michael’s Award, the highest recognition for a layperson, for her years of dedicated service by the Greek Orthodox Diocese of America.

Among Pota’s many gifts, perhaps her most significant was her ability to make everyone she encountered feel special and was much loved by all. With indomitable spirit and her ever-present smile, she embodied the phrase “Where there is a will, there is a way.” With great energy and faith, she said, "Yes to Life" that was the driving force for her lifelong success.

Pota was preceded in death by her husband George and daughters Harriet Apostolou and Vicky Pediaditakis.

She is survived by her children Roxanne (Steve) Serletis of Raleigh and Ted (Dot) Vallas of Fuquay-Varina; and grandchildren William Serletis, Johanna (Jim) Irving, George (Tracy) Serletis, Karen (Socrates) Gliarmis, Constance (Akim) Anastopoulo, Alex (Harriet) Apostolou, Stephanie Vallas, Paula (Angelo) Anastopoulo, Cara (John) Adcock, Stephanie (Jesse) Goslen, Nicole Pediaditakis, Peter (Beth) Pediaditakis, and 22 great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be Friday, Dec. 15, 2017 from 6:00-8:00 p.m., with a Trisagion Prayer Service at 7:00 p.m., at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, 5000 Leadmine Rd., Raleigh, NC 27612. The funeral will be held Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017 at 11:00 a.m. at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church followed by a graveside service at Montlawn Memorial Park.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, 5000 Leadmine Rd., Raleigh, NC 27612, or Transitions LifeCare, 250 Hospice Cir., Raleigh, NC 27607.

Arrangements by Brown-Wynne Funeral Home, Saint Mary's St., Raleigh, NC.


  • Visitation

    Friday, December 15, 2017

  • Trisagion Prayers

    Friday, December 15, 2017

  • Funeral Service

    Saturday, December 16, 2017


Pota Vurnakes Vallas

have a memory or condolence to add?

Sharon murray

December 18, 2017

My Father Ralph Murray worked for Mrs. Vallas mainly in the 70's at her store National Art and Interiors, he always spoke well of her.
always with respect.

Anne Clark Dahle

December 16, 2017

My mother saved her butter and egg money and hired Mrs. Vallas to plan drapes and upholstery fabric for our living room down 401 in Varina.

Ted Anastopoulo

December 16, 2017

She was a woman ahead of her time.

Diann Freeman

December 15, 2017

The family of the late Bertha Walker extend our condolences to the family.

Anna Ball Hodge

December 15, 2017

Incredible life, wish I had known her.

Turi and Linwood Watson

December 15, 2017

Our deepest sympathies on the loss of your mother, Ted. What an amazing life she led! And what a legacy she leaves behind in you and your extended family.

December 15, 2017

Remembering your strength, business guidance and most of all special friendship. Singing a special hymn for you. Yolanda Hall

December 15, 2017

Hedy Vurnakes Thevaos

December 15, 2017

The theologian William Barclay once said, When I die, I should like to slip out of the room without fuss for what matters is not what I am leaving, but where I am going. Thea Pota knew what mattered in life, and she has left us to remember what matters after her death.

Alyson Witt

December 15, 2017

May your beautiful memory be eternal. Your light and love will continue to bring joy for generations to come.