Matoula Papadopouli, born and raised in Rhode Island, turned her back on her American family and moved to her ancestral homeland, Greece.
She lived her last 15 years on the island of Skiathos in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Greece. She hand-wrote a will leaving everything to a Greek charity called The Child’s Smile. She told a lawyer she didn’t want her American parents to inherit anything.
In 2015, she died in a Greek hospital.
At least it’s a version of his later years.
The other is a librarian, with a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University and a master’s degree from the University of Rhode Island, who had served in the military, stationed in Turkey and Greece.
She was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2014. When she became unable to care for herself, she moved from her Portsmouth condo to the Middletown home of her cousin, Cynthia Kendall.
Kendall and her husband, Robert, took Papadopouli to cancer treatments and doctor’s appointments.
As cancer robbed her of her cognitive abilities, Papadopouli, in a fit of anger, tore up a formal lawyer-drafted will that left everything to Kendall and Kendall’s two sisters. Shortly after destroying the will, Papadopouli tearfully apologized to the Kendalls and promised to make things right.
With the end approaching in April 2015, Papadopouli returned to Skiathos before being admitted to hospital, where she died on October 4 of the same year.
A fake will? To save money ?
Child’s Smile and the Kendalls are now locked in a battle that spans the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, vying for an estate that is estimated to be worth $700,000.
Neither side speaks publicly, so Matoula A. Papadopouli’s story is taken from court documents and public documents.
The Kendalls said the handwritten will leaving everything to the charity is a forgery and claimed that a man living in the basement of Papadopouli in Greece, who was granted the right to spend the rest of his life in her house, exerted an undue influence on her.
The charity questioned tens of thousands of dollars – more than $100,000 – that the Kendalls transferred from Papadopouli’s bank accounts to theirs. The Kendalls said the money was a gift Papadopouli wanted them to spend on improving their home, caring for Cynthia Kendall’s parents, and paying student loans for the Kendalls’ adult sons.
Born in Newport on January 12, 1955, Papadopouli was the only child of Greek immigrants Alexandros Papadopoulis and Despina Michail.
“Basically, we grew up together,” Cynthia Kendall said in a court deposition. “We have always been very close over the years. We were like sisters. She had no siblings, and my sisters and I were like sisters to her.”
Conflicting views on the Greek roommate
Apart from eight years during and after college, Kendall has always lived in Middletown, while Papadopouli, known as Matoula Papas as a daughter and as Matoula Evanitsky in a marriage that ended through divorce, lived in multiple states.
While living in Pennsylvania in 2001, she had an attorney write a will, which was notarized, and left everything to Kendall and Kendall’s sisters, who were all Papadopouli’s first cousins.
Papadopouli had dual nationality in the United States and Greece and owned property in both places, including a condominium in Portsmouth.
In a court filing, Kendall said Papadopouli’s main residence was Portsmouth, although she spent summers in Skiathos, Greece, while visiting the island at other times of the year to check on possessions. that she had there.
On Skiathos, she lived the last four years of her life with Giannis Kontomanis, also known as Ioannis N. Kontomanis, or Yanni.
Both sides imagine her relationship with the man very differently.
In a court filing, the charity described him as “Ms Papadopouli’s life partner”.
But Kendall said that’s not how Papadopouli characterized the relationship.
“She, in private conversations with me, said he was not her boyfriend,” Kendall said in her deposition. “The basic feeling was that he was a friend, he needed a place to stay.”
Kendall, who had visited Skiathos, didn’t like what she saw in the space he had made his home. “Lots of trash and animals, and my cousin wasn’t happy with what she called a big mess,” she said.
Papadopouli writes a new will – or does she?
In 2013, Papadopouli reportedly hand-wrote a new will:
“Me Matouli Papadopouli from Alexandre I inherited all my property in Hamogelo tou Paidiou. [Greek for The Smile of ohe Child] (www.hamogelo.gr) Giannis N. Kontomanis will have the right to stay in my house in Skiathos, St. George, as long as he lives to take care of my animals”
It is said that when she finished the handwritten will, she gave it to Styliani Lilou, a lawyer friend.
In the years leading up to her death, Papadopouli told Lilou that she “didn’t want any of her assets passed on to her relatives in the United States, and instead wanted to make sure that her assets would go to a noble cause,” another Greek lawyer, Ioannis Kelemenis, said in an affidavit filed in Middletown Probate Court.
After Papadopouli’s death, Lilou presented the will to a Greek probate court and had The Smile Of The Child declared the sole owner of all Papadopouli’s assets.
When they read the handwritten will, the Kendalls grew suspicious. The informality of the whole, the overuse of the word “heritage” and the lack of punctuation did not match the meticulous librarian they had known. They hired a handwriting analyst from Athens to assess whether the will was legitimate.
“It was not produced by… Mataoula Papadopouli, but by a third party, with the aim of faithfully imitating his letters”, writes Magda-Maria Kabouri.
Cynthia Kendall’s father, Charles Michael, who has since died, appealed, claiming the will was fake. Michael was Papadopouli’s uncle, his mother’s brother. His family in Rhode Island said he was her next of kin because she was unmarried, had no children, and her parents predeceased her.
A Greek trial court, roughly equivalent to the district court in Rhode Island, upheld the will. The family appealed the decision to a higher court, which is due to hear the case in November.
A cancer diagnosis and a torn will
On September 9, 2014, Papadopouli was in Skiathos talking on the phone when trouble arose.
“She couldn’t utter a word. She then passed out and the friend on the phone called her boyfriend who found her unconscious.” according to a report from Tufts Medical Center.
She was taken to a hospital in mainland Greece, where an MRI showed a mass in her brain. Another MRI two weeks later showed the lump had grown.
“She called me the morning after she passed out…to tell me hysterically what happened on the phone,” Cynthia Kendall said in her deposition. “I told her then that she had to come to the United States right away and that we would take care of her.”
Back in America, a biopsy at Tufts revealed that Papadopouli had stage IV gliosarcoma. She started radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
In January 2015, against doctors’ advice, she returned to Greece, but her condition worsened within a week. “She had a lot of paranoid hallucinations,” the Tufts report said.
The Kendalls flew to Greece and brought Papadopouli back to the United States.
In March of that year, Papadopouli asked a friend to drive her to an attorney’s office, after which the friend told Cynthia Kendall that Papadopouli had “ripped up” the 2001 will that would have left everything to Kendall. and his sisters.
The next day, Robert Kendall returned home to find Papadopouli having a seizure. She was rushed to Newport Hospital and then transferred to Tufts.
Later, she spoke to Robert Kendall.
“She was talking to my husband on the phone,” Cynthtia Kendall said, “and crying and apologizing, and was kind of mad to regret and apologize for what she had done.”
Robert Kendall said: “She apologized and said she would fix it and take care of it. … I had understood she would rewrite the will.”
But she never did.
The following month, she returned to Greece for the last time, leaving behind a mystery that still unfolds on two continents.