General News

Community Members and Veterans We Have Lost

April 18, 2020

Harry Spiro Mitsanas, Greek Immigrant and Engineering Industry Executive, 88

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, CA – Greek immigrant Harry Spiro Mitsanas, “an executive in the engineering industry that exploded into Silicon Valley and a man who refused to allow a mid-life stroke to deter his zest for family and friends,” passed away on April 2 at his home in Rancho Palos Verdes, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on April 10. He was 88.

Mitsanas is survived by Emily, his loving wife of 63 years; his son, George, daughter-in-law Georgene, and grandchildren, Harrison, Trianna, and Michael; and his daughter, Maria Mitsanas Blasi, son-in-law Darrell, and grandchildren Arianna Blasi Farrow and Andrew Blasi. His eldest son, Spiro, predeceased Harry. Spiro is survived by his daughter, and Harry’s granddaughter, Anastasia. Harry also is survived by brother Demetri of California; and sisters Christina of Australia and Anna of Greece. He was predeceased by sister Panagiotitsa.

Mitsanas’ “is the story of an American immigrant who came to this country and thrived, building a successful career, raising a loving family and enjoying an expansive circle of friends,” the Chronicle reported.

Mitsanas was born February 4, 1932, in Tripoli on the Peloponnesian peninsula in southern Greece. As a young boy, Mitsanas, the son of a long-time employee in the local city government, became known for his abilities in badminton, backgammon, math, chess and poker. From his youth through adulthood, he was regarded as well-read. In Greece, Harry lived through Italian and Nazi occupations during World War II and the post-WWII Greek civil war before immigrating to the United States in the 1950s with the assistance of relatives from the Pallas family, “part of the large and vibrant Greek community in San Francisco,” the Chronicle reported.

“Pallas Brothers was a well-established San Francisco-based television repair shop in the city, and while attending college, Harry went to work there, installing TV antennas throughout the Peninsula,” the Chronicle reported adding that “Harry quickly earned a degree in electrical engineering from University of California, Berkeley, and subsequently a graduate engineering degree from Santa Clara University.”

In 1957, Mitsanas married Emily Gavallos, a Santorini native, who had come to the United States at age 11, having survived the hardships of WWII Greece. Like her husband, Gavallos lived in the San Francisco Greek community, the Chrinicle reported, adding that “she was introduced to her future husband by her brother, Victor.”

Shortly after marrying, “the couple moved to Redwood City, CA, where they raised their family and became widely known among their neighbors for their verdant garden, which included abundant plantings of tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs that were featured prominently in Emily’s outstanding cooking,” the Chronicle reported.

Mitsanas “became an enthusiastic and consistent supporter of the Greek-American Athletic Club, a semi-pro San Francisco-based soccer team, founded a few years before he immigrated, and which dominated the regional league for decades,” the Chronicle reported.

Mitsanas “joined burgeoning high-tech company GTE Lenkurt in San Carlos, CA, one of the founding companies of Silicon Valley, rising to the position as head of the firm’s national electrical engineering program,” and “worked at Lenkurt for more than 30 years, and then for another famous Silicon Valley firm, Memorex,” the Chronicle reported, adding that “his work with these firms took him throughout the world and the United States.”

Mitsanas was active in the Peninsula Greek community and was among the founding members, along with his wife, of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Cross in Belmont. He served as a member, president and treasurer of the Holy Cross Parish Council and was a fixture at the Belmont Greek Festival, the Chronicle reported, adding that “his home was known for family dinners and he celebrated his annual Name Day with a dinner party filled with Greek dancing among his wide circle of friends.”

In 1987, while visiting Greece, Mitsanas suffered a stroke, the Chronicle reported, noting that “initially, Greek doctors were uncertain he would survive.”

Transported back to the U.S., Mitsanas underwent further surgery and rehabilitation and though “he suffered permanent loss of movement in his right arm and some slurred speech, Harry nevertheless attacked his life, driven by a strong will and profound pride,” the Chronicle reported.

Mitsanas “continued many of his social activities and travel, continued to reign over the souvlaki preparation for the Belmont Greek Festival and enjoyed his growing family of grandchildren,” the Chronicle reported, adding that he “loved driving and would start every day at one of several Redwood City coffee shops, where the staff ensured that his special seat would be reserved for him.”

Later in life, Mitsanas and his wife moved to Rancho Palos Verdes to be closer to their son and his family, and though he continued many of his activities until recently, when his health declined, the Chronicle reported.

Mitsanas passed away peacefully surrounded by his family, the Chronicle reported, adding that “funeral services are pending,” due to the coronavirus pandemic. “The family is planning a celebration of Harry’s life to be scheduled when shelter-in-place restrictions are lifted and there is a resumption of normal activities,” the Chronicle reported, adding that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Belmont or Saint Katherine Greek Orthodox Church in Redondo Beach, CA. Messages to the family and memories may be shared online via the Lighthouse Memorials & Receptions website: www.lafuneral.com.


Grace Georgandes, Served as a WAVE in WWII, Passed away at 95

DAVIS, CA – Greek-American Grace Georgandis, nee Rakentzes, passed away on April 2 at age 95 in Davis, CA, the Baltimore Sun reported on April 12.

She was born in 1925 in Highlandtown in Baltimore City to Helen and Michael Rakentzes who had immigrated to the United States from Chios, Greece. Georgandis is survived by her daughter and son-in-law Gina and Michael Carter of Davis, CA and daughter Elaine Georgandis of Timonium, MD, as well as her three beloved grandchildren Matthew Carter, Christina Georgandis and Andrew Carter, her brother Matthew Rakentzes, and niece and nephew-in-law Elaine and James Wolle, nephew and niece-in-law Michael and LoAnn Dellis, niece and nephew-in-law Ann and Mitch Nelson, and niece-in-law Jo Gafos. She was preceded in death by her granddaughter Anastasia Georgandis, her mother and father and her siblings Marcella Dellis and Thomas Rakentzes and nephew Adam Gafos.

Georgandis spent most of her life in Baltimore. She served as a WAVE in the United States Navy during World War II as a nurse and was stationed in San Diego, CA, and later at the Bethesda Naval Hospital, the Sun reported, adding that “during her service, she helped bring joy and laughter to the troops by volunteering to perform in USO shows.”

“She attended Towson State Teachers College graduating in 1959 and was a primary school teacher, reading specialist and speech therapist in the Baltimore County public school system,” the Sun reported, adding that “Georgandis worked for many years as a manager at her family’s restaurant Michael’s Cafe in Timonium,” and “she was also a very active member of the St. Demetrios Church, having served on the Parish Council for several years.”

“After retiring she moved to Madison, WI and then to Davis, CA living with her daughter and son-in-law,” the Sun reported.

Georgandis “was a dynamic and generous woman who was a trailblazer in many ways,” the Sun reported, noting that “very few women served in the armed forces during the Second World War but Grace, against her parents’ wishes, chose to serve.”

“Her independent streak led her to earn both undergraduate and graduate degrees, own and manage numerous businesses around the Baltimore area, and kept her working until age 75,” the Sun reported, adding that Georgandis “understood the value of education and importance of being an engaged and informed citizen, values she passed on to her daughters and grandchildren.”

“She touched many lives far and wide with her generosity and selflessness, her openness and appreciation of new ideas and people from different cultures and backgrounds, and her clear understanding that we would ultimately be judged by how we treat the least among us,” the Sun reported, noting that “her exuberant spirit will be greatly missed, but not forgotten.”

Donations in Georgandis’ memory may be made to the Fund for Women of the Madison Community Foundation, online at www.madisongives.org/gracegeorgandis or checks made out to the Madison Community Foundation with Memo Line Carter/Rakentzes Fund and mailed to: Madison Community Foundation, 111 N. Fairchild Street, Suite 260 Madison, WI 53703.


Bill Chirigotis, 97, World War II Veteran, Has Died

DARTMOUTH, MA – Greek-American Vasil “Bill” Chirigotis, 97, of Dartmouth passed away on April 7 at home, Dartmouth Week reported on April 10.

He was the husband of Margaretha O. “Margaret” (Hersche) Chirigotis. Chirigotis was employed as an industrial roofer for many years until he retired, Dartmouth Week reported.

Born in Saco, Maine, son of the late Anthony and Panayota (Levakos) Chirigotis, he lived in New Bedford most of his life before moving to Dartmouth.

Chirigotis served in the U.S. Army participating in the battles in Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes, and Central Europe. He received the Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.

He is survived by his wife; a son, Anthony Chirigotis and his wife Maria of Westport; a daughter, Heidi Stucki and her husband Ralph of Highpoint, NC; two brothers, George Chirigotis of Merrimac, MA and Nicholas Chirigotis of New Bedford; two grandchildren, Heidi Chirigotis and Kreig Chirigotis; three great-grandchildren, Aliya, Mia, and Piper; and several nieces and nephews, Dartmouth Week reported, adding that Chirigotis “was the brother of the late Frederick Chirigotis and Stella Gianakos.”

Due to the coronavirus restrictions on public gatherings, his funeral service and burial will be private for immediate family. A public memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made to St. George Greek Orthodox Church P.O. Box 79411 Dartmouth, MA 02747.


Dr. Nicholas DeClaris Passed away at Age 89

BALTIMORE, MD – Dr. Nicholas DeClaris, a former University of Maryland, College Park electrical engineer who helped create the Maryland Shock Trauma System, passed away on March 28 of a blood-borne bacterial infection at Lighthouse Senior Living in Ellicott City, MD, the Baltimore Sun reported. He was 89 and lived in Fulton in Howard County.

Dr. William E. “Brit” Kirwan, former chancellor of the University System of Maryland told the Sun, “He was a talented electrical engineer, academic leader and a visionary scientist. He was one of the first to appreciate that electrical engineering and medicine could be connected.”

Born in Drama, Greece, DeClaris was the son of Elias DeClaris, a judge, and his wife, Eleni. “My father lived under and resisted Nazi occupation in Greece and was a resistance fighter. As a teenager he ran ammunition, food, and supplies to Greek soldiers and resistance groups,” said his son, John-William DeClaris, the Sun reported.

The late DeClaris had spent most of the World War II on the island of Andros, which was occupied by German and Italian forces.

According to a family biography, DeClaris came to Texas after WWII and worked in an uncle’s restaurant, the Sun reported, adding that he studied at Kilgore College and transferred to Texas A&M University where he earned a bachelor’s degree and a Jesse Jones Award for Achievement. He earned his master’s degree and doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and “studied with Ernst Guillemin, an early proponent of network analysis,” the Sun reported.

“My father had a strong talent in mathematics, and his first notable achievement was a proof that changed electrical engineering and component design,” his son said, adding that “Dr. DeClaris worked out a solution that eliminated the need for inductors and published a scientific paper about it,” the Sun reported.

“It was also during that time that he started a small venture called ResCon with a lawyer friend, Ralph Margolis. He worked with other mathematicians and electrical engineers — Rudolf Kalman, Amar Bose, Ed David, and Norbert Weiner,” his son told the Sun.

“Dr. DeClaris danced as a Boston Arthur Murray dance student and then became an instructor,” the Sun reported, adding that “he became an associate professor of electrical engineering and applied mathematics at Cornell University and worked in the then-new field of artificial intelligence,” while he “also held the university chair in aeronautics.”

Dr. DeClaris joined the faculty of the University of Maryland, College Park in 1967, where he worked in fluid dynamics and applied mathematics. He served as head of the department of electrical engineering at College Park from 1967 to 1974. His son said that “among his University of Maryland students was Dr. Judith A. Resnick, who died in the 1986 Challenger accident,” the Sun reported.

“Dr. DeClaris continued his professorship at College Park and also worked with Dr. R Adams Cowley in his efforts to build Shock Trauma at the University of Maryland Medical Center,” the Sun reported.

Dr. Kirwan told the Sun, “I knew Nick well as a colleague. He was an outstanding chair of the department of electrical engineering, and he was instrumental in creating Shock Trauma and was responsible for creating many of its systems.”

As Shock Trauma’s associate director, he worked to “create medical protocols and procedures for Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems,” and “examined ways to merge engineering principles and medical science,” the Sun reported, adding that “his work led to practices known as informatics and biomedical engineering.”

John-William DeClaris told the Sun, “It is anecdotal, but my father and Dr. Cowley often discussed, and possibly created, the phrase ‘the Golden Hour,’ to describe the critical time a trauma patient has. He also developed a strong friendship with the professor and pathologist Dr. Ben Trump. He remained a hard worker and expanded his research into medicine and pathology after stepping down at Shock Trauma.”

“Dr. DeClaris also worked part-time at the National Science Foundation with Dr. Joe Bordogna,” the Sun reported, noting that “his work became part of the initiative to create an Emerging Technologies Program in the Ronald Reagan administration.”

“In 2011, Dr. DeClaris retired from the University System of Maryland,” and “was honored by a citation from Gov. Martin O’Malley,” the Sun reported.

Among his hobbies, Dr. DeClaris “enjoyed travel and read classical history,” and “also studied the great mathematicians, including Pythagoras, Euclid, Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell and Jean-Baptiste Joseph Fourier,” the Sun reported.

His son said, “My father was a Greek Orthodox, and he wished for no funeral service,” adding that “his ashes will be interred at the family crypt in Greece after the pandemic abates,” the Sun reported.

In addition to his son, DeClaris is also survived by his wife, Clemencia Alvarez, and a brother, Michael DeClaris of Greece, the Sun reported, noting that DeClaris’ first wife, Joan Guiffre, passed away in 1981.


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