NEW YORK – Diplomats, some of America’s top educators and businessmen, and leaders and members of the Greek-American community joined the family, friends, and admirers of Michael Jaharis to bid the industrialist, philanthropist, churchman, and patron of the arts a warm and heartfelt farewell at his funeral in the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Manhattan on February 20.
Beneath a sky that was often clear and blue, one of the most beautiful days of the year to date, the clergy and laity who filled the Cathedral’s solea chanted the hymns “Everlasting be Your Memory” and “Blessed be the Way” for the man who was described as a devoted husband and father, ideal friend, extraordinary entrepreneur, and dedicated and hard-working Greek Orthodox Christian.
Archbishop Demetrios led the funeral service assisted by Metropolitan Methodios of New England, who read the Gospel, Metropolitan Savas of Pittsburgh who read prayers of forgiveness, Bishop Andonios of Phasiane, and a dozen local clergy, including Cathedral Dean Fr. John Vlahos and Dean Emeritus Rev. Dr. Robert Stephanopoulos.
Hints were offered that the philanthropic activities he undertook with his beloved wife Mary far exceeded what was known to the public, indeed he was lauded as a second father to many and as a man who spontaneously offered to pay for the education of others, as his son, Dr. Steven Jaharis, later declared.
The tears streaming from the eyes of some of his friends from the business world suggested they spoke of more than just money matters, revealing that Jaharis was also a big brother to many.
Metropolitan Methodios read a moving letter from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew addressed to Jaharis’ family and the clergy and laity of the Church in America about “our much loved and cherished, Michael Jaharis, “A true friend and visionary collaborator in the ecumenical vineyard of our Lord…who always led by example and complemented his wise counsel with magnanimous and visionary deeds”
Reflecting the response of some people in the congregation to those who were taking the loss heavily by noting that Jaharis’ spirit infuses his lasting initiatives and all he built, Patriarch Bartholomew wrote: “of course, we find him among us, as the very legacy he championed still supports” Hellenic, Byzantine civilization and the Orthodox faith.
Permission was granted for eulogies to be given, which is not traditional in the Orthodox Church, enabling the guests to move beyond the media biographies and to learn more about the human side of the dynamo named Michael Jaharis.
Jaharis’ son, his daughter Kathryn Jaharis, and Kevin Ferro, the CEO of Vatera Healthcare Partners LLC that Jaharis founded in 2007, noted the sense of humor, integrity, and humility that complemented the success of all his endeavors.
The speakers, including the Archbishop, expressed what was known to everyone in attendance who knew the inseparable couple, that Jaharis always said that his achievements would have been impossible without the love, support, and contributions of Mary Jaharis.
Two of Jaharis’ five grandchildren, daughters of Dr. Steven Jaharis, sang a moving rendition of Amazing Grace at the conclusion of the service
Most of the congregation knew the outline of Jaharis’ life: born and raised in Evanston, Illinois, the son of Greek immigrants, Michael and Katerina Jaharis, from the village of Aghia Paraskevi on the Greek island of Lesvos, a giant in the pharmaceutical industry.
The words of his children and devoted colleague, however, brought to light some of the man that others only knew as an industrial and philanthropic force.
Kathryn Jaharis summarized the traits that made her father so successful and revered by saying that the golden nugget of his character was his intuition – “his ability to see into people and know who they are and what they are capable of.” He promoted them and was proud of their achievements, but his friendship and mentoring transcended. He also “held them accountable for all their actions,” helping them to become better persons.
The speakers made numerous references to his gift of being able to assemble, hold together, and keep focused on the task at hand by force of personality teams of talented people who did not always agree.
His continued, calling him “a deeply caring man…street smart, wise, and always eager to learn from the brilliant people he attracted. A tough cookie with a huge heart,” that knew no bounds.
She added faith and a sense of humor, often self-deprecating, to his arsenal of character, but said that his secret weapon was “his beloved wife, our beautiful and dedicated mother Mary,” and then declared with emotion, “All of my dad’s greatness was made possible…from that foundation.”
Dr. Steven Jaharis son spoke of some of the things that must have drawn his mother to Jaharis before he rose to great heights. “My dad was a philanthropist before he made any money. He was a good friend and classmate.” He was the kind of man that as he got to someone he would “help you in any way he could…he would not tolerate phoniness, but if he liked you he stood by you.”
Few men of high achievement maintained the modesty their hard-working yet humble parents taught them. The son said with pride that his father was the first to visit hospitalized friends, and that doormen considered him “one of us of us” for the kindness they saw often.
“Never have I seen a couple bring such joy and inspiration to each other, and care so much for each other, as my parents,” he added, and then illuminated the love he and his sister experienced.
“Our dad was out of town a lot when we were growing up. It says a lot that Kathy and I always felt so loved and protected anyway… our thank you came in the form of five grandchildren…who gave my father such pride and joy.”
Dr. Jaharis then read a long list of names of friends and colleague and apologized to those he did not mention, and concluded with expression of gratitude to his father’s doctors on behalf of his family for their care during his heroic final struggle.
“We called him the comeback kid. I told the doctors he was a fighter all his life,” he said and concluded – to nods throughout the Cathedral – “My dad was a heckuva guy.”
Ferro began with the simple declaration of gratitude to Jaharis for being “a great friend and mentor,” and continued by listing some of the things everyone admired in him and took as examples in their own lives: “…his sense of humor, his love of family, friends, and colleagues, his love of building things. His generosity and love of helping others. Mike’s boundless creativity, ingenuity, and optimism led to significant innovations and pharmaceutical therapies that saved and improved millions of people’s lives.”
Ferro said their company’s current research endeavors will add to Jaharis’ legacy.
It would have been appreciated and excused by the late Archbishop Iakovos, an avid long-suffering Red Sox fan, that Jaharis’ “preferred house of worship was Wrigley Field.” Guests noted that while the Archbishop lived to see Boston finally win, the Cubs gave Jaharis hope last year that he would soon celebrate a World Series in heaven.
The same sentiment was expressed to those saddened at the thought that Jaharis did not live to see the completion of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox National Shrine as friends noted Jaharis was alive for the groundbreaking and was following the recent progress.
The Archbishop noted Jaharis was “a very central, decisive, and absolutely integral to the existence” of the St. Nicholas Shrine which will be clad with the same marble used in the Parthenon and which he declared constitutes a monument to the works and generosity “of this great man.”
“And, my beloved people. What a blessing! At this moment when we are having this final funeral service, down in Ground Zero a special team is pouring tons of cement onto the floor of St. Nicholas – at this moment,” Archbishop Demetrios said to the delight of the gathering. The pouring of the concrete is an important milestone for the great endeavor.
The Archbishop preceded his eulogy by welcoming the dignitaries and friends of “our really unforgettable and unique Archon Michael Emmanuel Jaharis.”
He offered his deepest condolences to Jaharis’ family before intoning that “this is a moment when we close a big chapter in the history of the Archdiocese…this is a case when language is totally defeated. Reality is far beyond what any language could describe.”
He said wanted to offer an illustration of Jaharis’ devotion to the Church by saying that “from the day Archon Michael took on the responsibility of the highest lay position of our Archdiocese” – Jaharis served years as Vice Chairman of the Archdiocesan Council – there has been no day in any month in the past 16 years when he did not either pass by the Archdiocese or have a telephone communication.”
Jaharis, he said, is truly worthy the Gospel’s words, “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your Lord.”
The Archbishop further honored Jaharis by reciting and saying Jaharis is worthy of the words St. Gregory the Theologian wrote for his father 1600 years ago.
He also joined those who lauded the beautiful partnership Michael and Mary formed in raising their family and forming the Jaharis Family Foundation that has bestowed substantial gifts of numerous academic and cultural institutions and over $2 million for poverty and hunger relief programs in Greece and most recently to assist the refugees landing on the shores of Lesvos.
The Cathedral was also filled the night before during the Trisagion service led by Archbishop Demetrios, assisted by Metropolitan Methodios of New England and Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey.
The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Rebuilding of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church or the Cancer Programs at Columbia University Medical Center, nevertheless the Cathedral’s St. Nicholas Chapel were filled with flower displays reflecting the esteem in which Michael Jaharis was held.
The entire congregation was invited to a catered makaria – memorial meal that followed in the Cathedral Ballroom.