My family moved to Tallahassee in 1975. I was 4 years old and my father, George Kontos, became the priest of Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, as well as the Head of School. I can still remember my first day of nursery school (what is now our PK4 program) and Miss Kat Oven was my teacher.
My father walked me into chapel that day saying, “Ok, Elizabeth, we are going to teach them ‘Good Morning, Church.’ Are you ready? They will love it” - and, of course, everyone loved it.
Now, 40 years later, all three of my girls attend HCES (my oldest graduated last year) and when I am in chapel, I still tear up a bit each time we are welcomed with "Good Morning, Church."
My father had a tremendous influence on my life. Many in the HCES community constantly and lovingly remind me of the impact he had on this church and school. I want to tell you about the impact that this place had on him and, therefore, on me and my family.
You may not realize that this school is truly steeped in tradition. I could tell you about my own 8th grade trip to Washington D.C. I could tell you that it rained during my May Day dance and that it was still glorious and a “Right of Passage.” I could tell you about a brand new, 22-year-old teacher named Karen Wells (still teaching 4th grade). I could tell you about the fact that to this day Mary Lois Mayfield was the hardest history teacher that I EVER had and that the “A” I earned from her meant more to me in the years to come than any other grade.
But, I'll tell you this...I was 10 years old when I first saw blueprints for the new school. It was a serious dream for everyone at Holy Comforter for a very long time. In 2006, when my husband, Hilton, and I returned to Tallahassee with our two girls and Lily on the way, Dad was with me as we walked these very grounds. Dad was a big guy, didn’t cry ever; he was always wearing his huge Greek smile. That day, his eyes were bright, tearful as he was in awe.
“This is your home, my home, anyone’s home just as God intended for it to be,” he said.
Anyone’s home. Holy Comforter is a family; and they, we, want everyone and anyone to be a part of this family, to know that they will be accepted and nurtured to be all that they can be. My daughter, Sophie, entered high school this year and Hilton and I have absolutely no doubt that her confident, caring nature, along with a stellar education is due to her “family.” Her HCES family.
Elizabeth and Hilton Hightower
Parents of Sophie (2016), Ava (2017) and Lily (2021)