George was taken to Greece to live by his mother at the age of two. His entire childhood (1930 to 1946) was spent in the most difficult of times in one of the most difficult of places of the twentieth century. In 1932 the impact of the world wide economic depression began to affect Greece. Italy invaded Greece in 1940 and was joined in 1941 by the Germans. Within months, the Nazis occupied the country, resulting in incredible hardships for the Greek people. Hundreds of thousands died of starvation. George remembers the hunger he and his family experienced, although they managed to survive. He also remembers escaping with other adolescent boys from his village to hide in the mountains when the Nazis began taking boys from their families and forcing them into labor in Germany to support the war effort. Again, George survived.
George returned to the U.S. at the age of 19, immediately going into the restaurant business with his father. At the time, he spoke only Greek. He learned English on the job. In 1950, with the start of the Korean War, the Selective Service System initiated a draft, ultimately inducting 1.5 million men ages 18-25 to serve during the Korean War. As a U.S. citizen, George was subject to inscription. Instead, he joined the 1.3 million who volunteered, joining the Air Force. George served three years, ending his tour of duty stateside when last minute orders for him to go to Korea were cancelled.
Returning to Dayton, George found his life’s career in watch repair, and his life’s love at a Greek Orthodox Church community dance. Becky remembers George never lacked for partners because he was such a great dancer. They knew each other for several years before their first date. They married, and George worked in watchmaking and repair with fine jewelers in Dayton, ultimately being certified to work on Rolex watches. They young couple also opened a restaurant serving subs and Greek food on Wilmington Avenue. For years Becky would run the restaurant during the day while George worked on watches. He would relieve her when the jewelry store closed and run the restaurant until closing. Their hard work enabled them to buy a beautiful home and raise two children, while fitting in family vacations to Florida. In 1992, 46 years after leaving, George and his family returned for a visit to Greece. In 2005, they did so again with grandchildren in tow.
In the summer of 2012, George developed multiple health problems, including a leaking heart valve and heart calcification. Surgery was not an option. He required oxygen and became weak. Periodically he would find himself unable to move, resulting in emergency room visits. To break the cycle, doctors referred George to palliative care services available through Hospice of Dayton. George’s condition is checked daily using technology that reports directly to the clinicians who monitor his blood pressure, weight and blood sugar levels. George and Becky know that if anything appears amiss they will receive a phone call or a visit from their nurse to address any issues. As a result of the intense monitoring of medication and symptom management, George has regained strength and is back to climbing the stairs to sleep in his own bed every night. He has not required oxygen since January. Becky calls him her “Spartan.” They both enjoy the reaction of his cardiologist who admits he is amazed by George’s recovery. But they are not surprised. They know that George is meant to be a survivor.
Postscript: George passed on August 18, 2013 surrounded by his family. His love, his memory, his history, his family, survive.