WHITESTONE, NY – Family and friends said a final farewell on June 29 to their beloved George Zapantis at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Whitestone. Among those present, his mother, Athanasia Zapantis, mourning the loss of her 29-year-old son, the younger of her two children.
The funeral service was presided over by His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, who two days earlier announced that the Archdiocese would cover the funeral expenses for George Zapantis, who died last Sunday of a heart attack following police officers tasing him twice.
“As a Greek Orthodox community, we are so sad, disappointed, and often angry with this injustice done to one of our brothers. I will not preach about human rights when I have a dead young man in front of me, but I will address his mother,” said Archbishop Elpidophoros, who was particularly concerned about the mother's pain.
“After our farewell to George, our heart, our eyes, and our mind turn to the mother, Athanasia. There is no greater pain, or more unnatural thing, than a mother burying her child,” said Archbishop Elpidophoros.
He then concluded by turning to Athanasia Zapantis and addressing her directly, “We are all with you, the whole community, you are the Greek mother who will be the mother of all of us and we will all be your children. You have all of us,” concluded Archbishop Elpidophoros.
George Zapantis' friends are calling for justice and answers to what happened on that fateful Sunday night.
“George was a very dear friend of mine and I hope justice will be done. I don't know why these police officers have not been arrested yet,” his friend, Vikentios Kavallieratos, told The National Herald.
Prokopios Panos added, “George was a good guy. What happened is a great tragedy. I will not sleep until I find answers. What I am waiting for is for charges to be filed against the police. They took him away from us, we will remember him forever and black lives matter.”
Argyro Kostakis has known George since age 7. “I grew up with George. He was such a good guy, a good soul. He left us tragically. We hope to see justice in all this.”
Stavros Raftis said, “He was my friend, he had a good heart, he was a good guy and he was not to blame for what happened. I am waiting for those who killed him to be punished. After the funeral we will organize a protest outside the police precinct. He will be greatly missed.”
However, the fact that the Greek-American politicians were conspicuously absent from the funeral service caused controversy.
A day earlier, on June 28, relatives and friends of George Zapantis attended the visitation at Antonopoulos Funeral Home in Astoria.
Photos from George's life with his family and friends and farewell wishes were placed outside the room. "Give us strength from where you are. Dry our tears, George, and let us know that you are in Paradise. I will love you forever,” wrote his cousin Marina Zapantis.
However, friends of the 29-year-old noted that they were waiting until after the funeral to organize a protest outside the 109th Police Precinct which responded to the call that led to Zapantis' tragic death.