Sam Athanas, owner of The Point Diner in Fairview for 55 years and President of the Pan Thisvian Society, died Tuesday at his home in Edgewater, NJ.
“He had the normal aches and pains for an 86-year-old, but we don’t know what happened. He was scheduled to fly to Greece that day. His bags were packed, and I was about to pick him up to take him to the airport,” Athanas’ son, George, manager of The Point, said, as reported in the Record.
Athanas in recent years arrived at the diner every morning at about 7 and stayed until after lunch. He had been at the Bergen Boulevard diner on Monday.
“Sam was The Point. He was warm and funny, a great conversationalist, and would walk the room, from table to table. The diner was like his family,” Susan Servis of Ridgefield, who has been a loyal patron of the diner since she was a child and had her wedding shower there, 43 years ago, the Record reported.
Born in Thisvi, Sam Athanas worked on his family’s farm, growing olives and raising honeybees. Having served in the Greek army, Athanas worked as a mason before immigrating to the United States at age 26.
His son said, “It was one of those rags-to-riches stories. He had no money in his pocket and didn’t know how to say hello, but he acclimated himself.”
Like many Greek immigrants, Athanas began washing dishes and eventually worked his way up to cook in a New Jersey coffee shop. S
He and a partner bought the recently opened diner The Point in 1961. In 1986, after his business partner passed away, Athanas became the sole owner of The Point.
“He was a sweet man and a hard worker,” his son noted. “Because he came from nothing in Greece — he went begging for food when the Germans came in and burned the villages down — that stuck in his head, and he always strived to work. He knew that working was the key to a long, prosperous life. He was a working guy, till his very last day.”
Athanas’ wife, Amelia, also from his hometown in Greece, passed away in 1995. He is survived by his son, George, of River Vale, Tina Giannaros of Stockholm in Sussex County, his brother Louka and his wife Mary, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
The visiting hours are today from 5 to 9PM at A.K. Macagna Funeral Home, Cliffside Park, NJ. The funeral service will take place on Friday at 11AM at Ascension Greek Orthodox Church in Fairview, NJ, the interment to follow at George Washington Memorial Park Cemetery in Paramus,
Sam Athanas with his grandchildren. Photo courtesy of the Athanas family