Theodore A. Pappas, who hired world-famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright to design his family's home in Town and Country, died Dec. 9, 2004, of pneumonia at St. Luke's Hospital. He was 83.
Mr. Pappas was living in an apartment in Richmond Heights in 1955 when his wife, Bette, announced that she wanted a home built by Wright. Ted Pappas wrote a letter to the architect: "I have a wife who feels she has to have a house built by you," and included a $300 check as a retainer.
Wright cashed the check, and the project that followed spanned many years. It's chronicled in Bette Pappas' book, "No Passing Fancy."
Wright died in 1959, the year before the Pappases broke ground. Two contractors quit, so the Pappases decided to act as their own general contractors. Laboring evenings, vacations and weekends, it took them four years to complete the house and at a cost four times what they originally planned to spend. (He told Wright in the original letter that he wanted to keep it under $20,000).
"It was quite a stretch for us because we were not wealthy people, and we did a lot of the work ourselves," Bette Pappas said.
The 1964 home is made of special concrete blocks, glazed with tiny pieces of glass. It sits on nearly 4 acres near Highway 40 and Mason Road.
"He really liked sharing it with others," Bette Pappas said. "That was one of the highlights for him. I always kind of wanted it to be a private place with lots of sunlight. But it became very public from Day One, and it all worked out just fine.
"He was always more outgoing than I am."
Jamie Cannon, president of Landmarks Association of St. Louis, said the Pappases were among only three or four couples left nationwide who are living in Wright-designed homes they personally commissioned.
"Every week, when you have a house like this, you have groups of people popping up and looking in your bedroom window -- a Frank Lloyd Wright house automatically becomes famous," Cannon said. "People find the addresses of these houses, primarily architectural buffs. Over the years, Bette and Ted have been generous in their willingness to allow people to see and experience their house."
Bette Pappas, 78, said she plans to remain in the house, "at least for the time being."
A St. Louis native, Mr. Pappas graduated from St. Louis University with a bachelor's degree in economics. He worked as a public relations man for the old St. Louis Browns. He was a fighter pilot during World War II. In the late 1940s, Mr. Pappas moved to Milwaukee to work for Fox Amusement Corp., a subsidiary of 20th Century Fox.
The couple married in 1948, and they returned to St. Louis after about five years in Milwaukee. Mr. Pappas took a short stint here with an advertising firm and then became vice president of Commercial State Life Insurance Co. He retired in 1980.
In February, Mr. Pappas suffered a massive stroke. He recently contracted pneumonia, which led to his death.
There was no formal funeral or public service. Instead, his family had a private dinner gathering. Bette Pappas donated her husband's body to St. Louis University.
In addition to his wife, among survivors are a son, Theodore Pappas Jr. of Foristell, Mo.; three daughters, Candace Simmons of Foristell, Charisse Pappas of Jefferson City and Cynthia Pappas of Wentzville; and five grandchildren.
--St. Louis Post-Dispatch; December 19, 2004
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