ATHENS, Greece - Marika Mitsotakis, the voluble, opinionated wife of a former Greek prime minister whose cooking skills were the stuff of political urban legend, died in Athens on Sunday as two of her children ran for re-election in Parliament. She was 81.
Her family said she died in a hospital, but did not specify the cause of death. She dealt with various health issues over the years.
Marika Mitsotakis' husband, Constantine Mitsotakis, was prime minister from 1990-93, after serving in several cabinet positions from the 1950s through the 1980s. He led the conservative New Democracy party from 1984-93.
Their daughter, Dora Bakoyannis, a former mayor of Athens and a former foreign minister, is running in Sunday's election at the head of centrist Democratic Coalition. She quit the New Democracy party in 2010 when it refused to sign off to Greece's first bailout. Her brother, Kyriakos, the Mitsotakis couple's only son, chose to remain within the party and is also running for re-election Sunday.
Bakoyannis rushed home from the island of Crete, the family's political base, where she was doing election-day campaigning.
For the most part Marika Mitsotakis conformed to the stereotype of the dutiful, devoted politician's wife. But her personality contrasted with her husband's famous even-tempered demeanour, and "Mrs. Marika," as she was widely known, could not, and did not, avoid the occasional limelight.
On one occasion, in 1991, then-industry minister Stavros Dimas — currently foreign minister — resigned during an official trip to what was then the Soviet Union after a public dressing-down by Marika Mitsotakis.
When her husband finally became prime minister in 1990 after a turbulent career, Mitsotakis was visibly elated and proud.
She created a minor incident in Parliament during her husband's first appearance as premier when a socialist lawmaker complained that the prime minister's wife was making "insolent gestures" toward the socialist bloc.
Mitsotakis was not amused: "I'll get my stick and beat you with it," she said, adding an epithet.
Time magazine, which reported on that election, chose to quote her in the article title: "Finally, my Costas, we've made it."
Giorgos Karatzaferis, leader of the right-wing populist LAOS party, who was a New Democracy member of parliament in the 1990s, said Sunday that Mitsotakis was "a dynamic woman."
Mitsotakis was devoted to her husband and fiercely protective of his reputation. She used to say she was unfit for party politics and marveled at her husband's perseverance and cool demeanour.
"If you chopped (him) into little pieces, you could sell him as Valium tablets," she once told an interviewer.
Mitsotakis had a reputation as a formidable cook. Her husband's political opponents credited her with using those skills to "turn around" two veteran Communist leaders who agreed to join the conservatives in a coalition government in 1989 with the sole purpose of taking socialist leader Andreas Papandreou to court on corruption charges.
This was urban legend, but Marika Mitsotakis used it to publish last year a cookbook titled "Recipes With a Bit of History." The book was an instant hit.
Born on Nov. 29, 1930, to a wealthy Athenian family, Marika Giannoukou married Mitsotakis, 12 years her senior, in 1953.
She is survived by her husband, four children, 13 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.