NEW YORK – George Burlotos this year celebrated both his 86th birthday and his 60th anniversary promoting Hellenism in the Delaware Valley (Philadelphia,*nbsp;Delaware, South Jersey), mainly via his weekly Greek Spirit TV program, which currently airs on WYBE Sunday evenings from 8 to 10 p.m. *nbsp; Mr. Burlotos has broadcast Greek Orthodox Church liturgies, doxologies and special events; he has videotaped and presented functions such as, dances, performing dance groups and special events throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding tri-state area; as well as musical events and news from Greece.
TNH: Tell us about yourself.
GB: I was born in Passaic, N.J. many years ago! (1923). As a child, my mother was ill with tuberculosis, so from 1929 until 1939, I lived mainly with relatives in Elika (Laconia) and Marousi, Greece.*nbsp; I returned from Greece as a 16 year-old teenager and attended Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden, N.J.*nbsp; I thoroughly enjoyed the arts, played the violin and participated in school theater productions.*nbsp;
Four days after my graduation I entered the U.S. Navy and served with the Amphibious Seabee forces in the South Pacific including the invasion of Okinawa.*nbsp; Upon my discharge in 1946, I attended Temple University at night for five years and operated for several decades The Fruit Basket and George*#8217;s Restaurant in Camden and Cherry Hill, N.J.
I married Matina Laskaris of Wilmington, Del. in 1953 and am the proud father of four children (Eleni, James, Nikonia and Alexander) and nine grandchildren.*nbsp; Matina passed away in 1995 after an extended battle with Parkinson*#8217;s disease. Through the years, I was also involved in many professional, community and Greek organizations.*nbsp; This includes being Chairman of the Cherry Hill Economic Development Board, the Chamber of Commerce and serving as Vice-President of Lawn Del Savings Association.*nbsp; I served the Greek community as a founding member and past president of St. Thomas Greek Orthodox Church in Cherry Hill, N.J.*nbsp; I have also been a lifetime AHEPA member, serving as past president and district governor of the N.J. and Delaware District #5. I am also a proud member of the Eleftheria VFW Post 6633 Greek-American Veterans Association.
TNH: How does your Greek heritage affect your career?
GB:In essence my Greek heritage is my career!*nbsp; The nine boyhood years I spent in Greece heavily influenced me as I became completely enchanted by my Hellenic heritage.*nbsp; In high school I frequently entertained fellow musicians in the orchestra with echoes of rebetica songs. I also loved the theater and was a member of the high school theater guild, performing in numerous school plays and musicals. I would often impulsively inject Greek phrases into the English scripts bringing laughter to my classmates and the audience.
Our restaurant in Camden was right next door to RCA.*nbsp; RCA employees were our customers.*nbsp; One day in 1949 they mentioned there was some available air time on WKDN-AM.*nbsp; I applied for the slot and was accepted.*nbsp; Although I had no experience, the program became rather popular. Initially, we were on the air only one day per week, but through the years the Pan-Hellenic Hour was on the air up to six days per week.
After 35 years on the radio, in 1984, I started The Greek Spirit TV program.*nbsp; It was the early days of Cable TV and airtime was available and affordable.*nbsp; I believed through television we could expand our audience and bring the Hellenic community some terrific programming.*nbsp; This year The Greek Spirit celebrated its 25th anniversary.
TNH: Do you have any role models?
GB: Can Socrates be my role model?*nbsp; His statue is on the host*#8217;s TV desk and he has been a beloved friend and inspiration.*nbsp; I look to him for guidance and often refer to his teachings and philosophy.
As a young man my early role models were the *#8220;old timers*#8221; of the AHEPA Chapter # 69 in Camden, N.J.*nbsp; I especially admired the late Judge Gregory Lagakos, the founder of the Hellenic-American Federation in Philadelphia.*nbsp; Their dedication to our community and Hellenism were an inspiration to me to work hard and be proud of my Hellenic roots.
TNH: What is your greatest achievement thus far, and what do you hope to achieve in the future?
GB: I like to think my four children are my greatest achievement.*nbsp; Despite our busy lives, we still are very close and keep in constant contact.*nbsp; I have also been proud of my service in the Navy during WWII and of what we were able to accomplish in the founding of St. Thomas Greek Orthodox Church in 1967.*nbsp;
As to the future, I will soon need to retire. The program keeps me active but I am not sure how long I can keep it going.*nbsp; It is my hope someone with the same passion for Hellenism can continue the program long after I am gone.
TNH: Any other pastimes?
GB: At 86 years of age, my main pastimes besides the Greek Spirit is taking a nap and going to doctors appointments!*nbsp; I continue to be involvement with the Eleftheria VFW where we award numerous scholarships annually.*nbsp; I am still an active member of AHEPA and often spend time visiting friends who may be hospitalized.*nbsp; I am also working with the foundation to build the St. Thomas Home for the Aged.
TNH: Share with us some words of wisdom.
GB: Everyone should have a subscription to The National Herald.*nbsp; I have been a subscriber since 1947 and it is a terrific way to learn of our Hellenic culture and keep up to date with current events.*nbsp; I believe every Greek School and household should subscribe!