Stella “Yia Yia” Kalaris passed away this year on October 26. Beloved by many, she was known for her time spent with her husband Gus at their ice ball cart along Western Avenue by the park. In her remembrance, we look back on an article written in 2012 by local historian John Canning that documented Gus and Yia Yia’s time on the Northside:
“The Kalaris Ice-Ball cart has been in operation along Western Avenue since 1934, when Gus’s Dad set the business in operation. For the next 70+ years the Kalaris family has been producing thousands of wonderfully flavored cups of hand shaved ice.
Gus and Stella have been, and continue to be, very special neighbors for Northside folks who on a ‘scorcher’ walk to the park for a refreshing orange-pineapple, cherry, lime, root beer or, as every kid has tried, the all favorite “Rainbow” Ice-Ball.
On any summer day or evening the line at the Ice-Ball cart always will include many non-Northsiders or expatriate Northside folks who have driven in from the various far-flung regions of the Greater North Side: Ross, Mt. Troy, Ingomar, Wexford and even Cranberry.
Recently while perusing a website called ‘Born and Raised on the Northside’ there was a picture postings of Gus and Yia-Yia’s orange and white cart with the multi-colored umbrella from folks living in the Carolinas, Texas and Arizona. Some were taken decades ago. When returning to the area for family
events and class reunions many messages described the excitement of bringing their own kids and grandkids to enjoy, as one message read, ‘the greatest ice ball in the country.’
Gus and Stella were ‘born and raised on the Northside.’ Stella grew up in the California-Kirkbride neighborhood and went to Columbus Elementary and then to Oliver High. Gus’s home was on Sandusky Street, just above AGH. He attended Cowley, Latimer and then Allegheny High. They have lived in Brighton Heights for many years raising their two lovely daughters, Penny and Chrissy.
During those ‘child rearing’ years when Stella was with the girls, Gus’s mom, Yi-Yia (Grandmother in Greek), was at the stand helping serve and converse with friends and customers. In recent years, as Stella is now the Yia-Yia to her own grandchildren, she is often at the cart meeting and greeting folks as they wait for their favorite flavored treat. Everyone who has frequented that stand for any period of time has become a friend as well as a customer. Stella and Gus are the ultimate Northside good neighbors. They have been at it, as the sign on the cart reads ‘Since Your Dad Was A Lad.’
Indeed, they do sell the greatest Ice-Balls in the Country, but even more so, they specialize in friendship to everyone!”
After her passing, the Northside Leadership Conference created a scholarship fund in her name and has collected $5,000 in donations thus far. Every dollar contributed goes towards the scholarship as the NSLC takes no administrative fee from these donations. Those wishing to donate can send a check made to “NSLC Scholarship Fund” and include YiaYia in the notes/memo field. Checks should be mailed to Northside Leadership Conference at 1319 Allegheny Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15233. The YiaYia scholarship will be given annually at the NSLC Awards Dinner in June. In 2014, Gus and Stella received a lifetime achievement award at the NSLC annual scholarship dinner.
Along with her husband and daughters Penny and Christina, Stella is survived by her brother, John Bistolas, four grandchildren, two step-grandchildren and three step great-grandchildren.