In Memory of Dr. Aphrodite Matsakis

· In memory

Aphrodite Matsakis

May 31, 1947 - March 18, 2024

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Aphrodite Theoni Matsakis was reunited in death to her beloved parents, Nicholas and Theodora Matsakis, on March 18, 2024, after a challenging struggle with pancreatic cancer which ravaged her body but not her spirit. Lovingly cared for by her daughters, Theodora (Steve Steckler) Scarato and Magdalena (Marc Seiden) Scarato, she was able to enjoy the company of her grandchildren Sophia, Magdalena, Rosario, and Niko to the end, sharing her love of dance and all things Greek. She was the older sister to Demetrios (Cindy) Matsakis and Elias (Joanne) Matsakis, and a loving aunt and great-aunt to their families. She was loved by so many dear friends to whom she was a confidant, a caring friend, and an inspiration.

Hers was a life of passion and achievement. A prolific author and lecturer, a loving mother and grandmother, a trusted psychotherapist and a devoted parishioner. She impacted many lives and was a role model and inspiration to so many women of her generation.

From the day she was born in St. Louis, her parents immersed her in all aspects of Greek culture from the language of her first few years to Greek food, mythology, and theater, and to the Orthodox faith, which for her included the name days and church holidays, its music and, perhaps most impactfully to Aphrodite, Greek dancing. Her mother guided her by having her learn piano, ballet, and introducing her to biographies of famous women such as Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Dorothea Dix so that she would have the confidence to overcome the obstacles that women faced in her generation.

She began her education at Mullanphy elementary/middle school in St. Louis, and spoke only Greek as she entered kindergarten. Aphrodite later graduated as Valedictorian both there and at Webster Groves High School. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Washington University, and her Master’s in Education at Stanford, and a Master’s and a PhD in psychology at the University of Maryland.

She traveled extensively to Greece, India, and Malaysia before beginning her long career as a psychologist at the Veterans Hospital in Washington DC, and later, at the Veteran’s Center of Silver Spring. She was an innovator and a leader in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Her first book Vietnam Wives set the standard for the diagnosis and treatment of those experiencing life-altering trauma and has guided numerous psychologists and counselors in the treatment of PTSD. Key to her approach was to include the wives and girlfriends of the PTSD victims, which in more modern times has been generalized to spouses and partners. Inside her personal copy of Vietnam Wives, she kept a handwritten note from a woman thanking her for writing that book and telling her that “it speaks to me”. She was a tireless advocate for her veterans and their families to assure they had the benefits necessary for their care. She created the first eating disorders program for veterans and the first spousal support groups.

Aphrodite’s expertise was sought far and wide as an expert witness, and she worked as an expert ethics reviewer for over 70 research studies. She taught as an adjunct professor at the undergraduate & graduate level and at continuing education seminars for the University of MD and Johns Hopkins University. Her courses ranged from introductory psychology, child psychology, and the psychology of women to trauma. In that same time, she appeared on television talk shows and authored thirteen books on counseling and psychology topics from child and spousal abuse, PTSD, dealing with rape and grief, eating disorders, and child psychology. Some of them were translated into other languages. A complete list of her books can be found on

She also enjoyed writing books about her heritage, including Growing Up Greek in St. Louis and Greek Myths and Stories. She professionally recorded her version of many of those Greek myths on

Aphrodite loved her ancestral island of Karpathos. Her home was filled with paintings and images of the island and the sound of Karpathian music in the background. Aphrodite wanted her grandchildren to appreciate their ancestry. This motivated her to write a detailed history of the Matsakis family from the heroes who fought in the Greek War of Independence to her grandparents and their siblings. The books were filled with amazing stories of passion, struggle, family, and achievement. And of course, she brought the feminine insight into both the mythology and the family history.

Aphrodite loved to dance – whether the twist, salsa, the Cretan Pentozali or the Karpathian Sousta. She was a fixture at dances of every kind and especially loved dancing with neighbors as a member of the Greenbelt International Dance Group. Her final book to be published this year is an insightful look at the historical, cultural, political and feminist elements that are expressed in the diverse folk dances across Greece.

Aphrodite was deeply spiritual and a devoted parishioner of St. Theodore’s Greek Orthodox Church. She found comfort in Christ’s love throughout the many challenges she faced, and was fully engaged in the life of the Church.

As her mother aged, Aphrodite took on the role of bringing the family together for all holidays, special birthdays, Greek dances and other family events. Her family expanded to include in-laws Bette Steckler, Roz and Michael Seiden and also Madeleine Keesing. She relished the role of grandmother and felt completely fulfilled in her family’s presence.

No description of Aphrodite would be complete without mentioning her love of cats. She would adopt them and care for them with deep affection, writing a story about how one of them saved her life in Nurturing Paws. She fed all the strays in the neighborhood to whom she was their special blessing.

In her last days, there were dozens of close friends and visitors, some calling from thousands of miles away. Many were from her church or the town of Greenbelt, where she moved to be closer to her daughters. Still others were clients and friends whom she had helped as a psychologist, counselor, or role model, sometimes from decades before. The impact of her love and resilience on so many was manifest with each tearful goodbye.

There will be a visitation on Wednesday March 20, 2024 from 4-7 P.M. at Borgwardt Funeral Home located at 4400 Powder Mill Road, Beltsville MD 20705 (301–937-1707). The funeral service will be held on Thursday March 21, 2024 with a visitation at 11:00 A.M. followed by the service at 12:00 at St. Theodore Greek Orthodox Church, 7101 Cipriano Road, Lanham, MD 20706 to be followed by graveside service at Ivy Hill Historic Cemetery 1201 Sandy Spring Rd, Laurel MD 20707. In lieu of flowers, the family requests to honor her wish that memorial donations be made to either or