Willa Dean (Dena) Cocorinis

August 14, 1925 - March 1, 2020

In the early hours of March 1, 2020, Willa Dean Cocorinis passed as gently as she lived her long and exemplary life. Dena was born in Magna, Utah on August 14, 1925, the third daughter of Emanuel and Georgia Papanikolas. She was the seventh of eight children. Dena loved her family and was fiercely loyal to them.

When Dena was in her twenties, a young and handsome man from the Greek island of Skopelos, William D. Cocorinis, passed through Salt Lake City. Upon meeting the beautiful Dena at a party, Bill, mesmerized by Dena’s blue eyes, declared that he was going to marry her. Two years later, he did.

Dena was understated, elegant and the heart and soul of her family. She was a wonderful wife, superb mother, gourmet cook and hostess extraordinaire at family gatherings and parties, as well as the steadying counterpart to her charismatic and ebullient husband. Dena’s intelligence, natural warmth, tenderness and ability to love unconditionally, drew family and friends to her. A thoughtful listener, she could have taught a master class in empathy, grace and discretion.

Dena was a world traveler, active in the community, served on several non-profit boards, and was a wickedly talented bridge player. She loved to laugh and possessed a wry sense of humor.

Bill and Dena were the proud parents of a son, Dimitri (known to many as Mitch), and a daughter, Jonette (Geoffrey Mangum). Dena’s impact on her children was extraordinary. Even as adults, she continued to be a deep source of support to them, but this pales in comparison to the loss they now feel.

As Dena grew older, her family and friends were invaluable in helping her fill the void left by Bill’s passing in 2003. Her Salt Lake Country Club and Town Club bridge groups provided years of joy and friendship. Dena’s greatest source of pride and comfort in her later years were her adored and accomplished grandchildren, David and Alexandra, for whom she was like a second mother. They gave her tremendous joy, and she was grateful for their efforts in staying in touch with her even though separated by at times, great distance. They will keep their Yiayia in their hearts forever.

Dena was predeceased by all of her older brothers, John, Nick, Gus and Spiro Papanikolas (who passed as a child), and by her younger brother, also named Spiro. She was also predeceased by her sister, Bertha Cononelos, and is survived by her older sister, Ida Collard. Dena leaves behind dozens of nieces and nephews, and she loved them as much as they loved her.

Mitch and Jonette wish to express their appreciation to Dena’s many loyal and steadfast friends, who Dena loved dearly.

A graveside service will be held at the Mt. Olivet Cemetery, on Saturday, March 14, 2020 at noon. A celebration of Dena’s life will immediately follow at the Salt Lake Country Club. Friends and family are invited to both events. 

In lieu of flowers, Dena’s family would be grateful for any donations to the William D. Cocorinis Scholarship Endowment at the University of Utah, Development Office, P.O. Box 410481, Salt Lake City, Utah 84141-0481, or the Utah Lions Eye Bank.