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Christina Sacorafas

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Christina Sacorafas
Christina Sacorafas was a great fan of Greek folk dance. She taught it at her church.
Courtesy of Sacorafas family

Christina Sacorafas was running late, and called a fellow dance instructor to tell her.  

But Sacorafas never made it the Minneapolis church where students in her Greek folk dancing group were waiting for her to begin class. 

She was driving over the I-35W bridge Wednesday evening, and has been missing ever since. 

Sacorafas' story resembles that of a much-beloved television show from the 1970s:  A woman rebounding from a failed relationship decides to make a fresh start in a new city, and quickly wins the hearts of others who are drawn to her effervescent personality and gentle, joyous spirit.

Sunday service at St. Mary's Greek Orhtodox Church
Hundreds of parishoners at St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church in Minneapolis prayed for Christina Sacorafas.
MPR Photo/Martin Moylan

The center of a new life for Christina Sacorafas was St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church, which she joined shortly after moving to Minneapolis from San Diego in the winter of 2004. 

"She really clicked with all of us in our parish and the Greek Community," said Krisanthy Sikkila, a parishioner who became a good friend.

Sacorafas, 45, literally danced into her new life. As the granddaughter of Greek immigrants, she had participated in ethnic dance groups while growing up in Detroit and San Diego. When she discovered that St. Mary's had no dance program for its children, Sacorafas resolved to start one.

Joined in the project by two other churchwomen, Sacorafas soon had more than two dozen children in the new program. 

She not only taught the dances, but made all the costumes -- colorful prairie-style skirts and scarves for the girls, vests decorated with coins and baubles, dashing sashes for the boys.

Father Paul Paris of St. Mary's  Church
Father Paul Paris of St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church in Minneapolis. He says Christina Sacorafas' spirit will long be with those she touched.
MPR Photo/Martin Moylan

If the costumes weren't authentic --- how could anyone convince an American boy to wear the traditional Greek male skirt? --- they were culturally suggestive, Sikkila said. The first performance took place last March and it was a rousing success.

It had to be, of course. Sacorafas was indefatigable in a radiant sort of way, said Rev. Paul Paris, priest at St. Mary's.

"Joy is like perfume," Paris said. "When you walk into a room with someone who has joy, the scent stays with you. We still have that here."

When Sacorafas disappeared while driving to church, it was thought that the dance costumes were in her car and been lost with her. But later, the costumes were found at her home, and have become a small part of her legacy.

Another legacy, Rev. Paris says, is this: "She has made people feel good about humanity. That is a very great thing."