May 1, 1928 – Dec. 27, 2015
Nomiki “Nellie” Konst, who taught elementary school in Lancaster for more than 25 years, hosted glittering parties at her home overlooking Cayuga Creek and vacationed in distant lands, died Dec. 27 in Juno Beach, Fla. She was 87.
Though Mrs. Konst had been fighting a 20-year battle with breast cancer, she died of complications from a stroke, her family said.
“Mom was a local iconic figure, with her silver hair and beach glow, driving to and from elementary school in her white Corvette with her black poodle,” said one of her sons, Harry Konst of Lancaster. “But most notable was how she instilled the love of learning in elementary school students and a zest for life in each of her four children.”
At the time of her death, Mrs. Konst was married to Nicholas Konst, a former law partner and chief of staff for John R. Pillion, a congressman from 1953-64. The Konsts would throw regular parties and gathering for friends and acquaintances from the world of politics.
The couple, married for 63 years, had met in Sunday school. Nicholas Konst said he might have won over his future wife by first winning over his future mother-in-law.
“I went to visit her with fresh-squeezed orange juice when she was sick – and I guess that won her mother over,” Nicholas Konst said. “Boy, did I luck out.”
The couple filled the walls of their home with art from Egypt, Greece, Venezuela, Cuba – and with countless cookbooks. Mrs. Konst was an accomplished gourmet chef who specialized in Mediterranean dishes.
Kathy Konst, who married Harry Konst and served as an Erie County legislator from Lancaster, said that while campaigning many people would ask if she was related to Nellie Konst.
“Her former students had so many good memories of my mother-in-law,’’ she said.
Mrs. Konst understood public relations and carried the lesson not just to her students but to her children and grandchildren, said a granddaughter, Nomiki Konst, who has served as a political analyst on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC.
“I remember when I was in high school, Yiayia (Grandma) would give me tips on how to persuade an audience not just through voice but with expression,” she said. “I had no idea how much her lessons would play a role in my future.”
Mrs. Konst was born Nomiki Kardoulias in South Buffalo to immigrants Nicholas and Calliope of Kaylmnos, Greece. She graduated in 1947 from the State College for Teachers at Buffalo, as SUNY Buffalo State was known then. She taught for more than 25 years at two Lancaster elementary schools, Hillview and Alys Drive, now known as the John A. Sciole Elementary School. She also taught Sunday School at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church.
Upon retiring, Mrs. Konst purchased a second home in Juno Beach.
Aside from her husband, Mrs. Konst is survived by children Calliope Konst, Lynn Crosby, Harry Konst and George Konstantakis; sister Mary Liolios; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The family is planning a summer memorial in Lancaster and a scholarship in her name.