Zaphiria LaBarge, cosmetologist and mother, voyager and survivor, died Wednesday, January 12, 2022, in her adopted hometown of Madera, California. She was 86 years old.
A masterful cook and fluent speaker of six languages, Zaphiria was born Zaphiria Margiouklas in Cavallas, Greece to parents Demitri and Kiriakoula Margiouklas, the youngest of five sisters. She was a lifelong learner, having travelled to earn her college diploma in London, England, the first of her international travels.
In 1963, Zaphiria emigrated to the United States with a passion for exploring new horizons. Vivacious and energetic, she reunited with Leo Charles LaBarge, a native of New York State she had met while he was in London, serving in the Air Force. They married in Las Vegas and shared an exciting life, driving around the country in their MG sports car.
Her son Dimitri remembers his mother as having a keen interest in arts like decoupage and painting, filling their early home with her creative works. As she took up a lifelong career as cosmetologist, she brought the same verve to hair and nail care, becoming one of the favorite practitioners in Madera, CA. Her services were so popular that her best customers sought her out even after her official retirement in 2007.
Even after losing her husband in 1983 and a subsequent health scare, she was a born survivor, thriving after these trying crises. Later in life, her friends at St. George Greek Orthodox Church helped her master Greek cooking with regional recipes that she made her own; her trays of baklava and pots of avgolemeno soup are still legendary. She was also an enthusiastic Greek dancer; at the yearly Greek Food Festival in Fresno, she would outlast people half her age with her spirited dancing. Even in her 70s, she would astonish people with her natural rhythm.
Zaphiria would go out of her way to help people all her life, offering opportunities where she could. She built a reputation as a beloved landlady, building deep relationships with her tenants, who often came to her home in difficult circumstances.
Zaphiria is mourned by her son Dimitri and daughter-in-law Heather Kamins, as well as by an enormous, loyal community of in-laws, overseas relations, and true friends. She wished no formal memorial, but those who know her will remember her deeply as one of the most special and unique people of their lives.