General News

Dr. Theodore C. Papaloizos, the Man who Spread the Greek Language, Has Died

February 17, 2021

WASHINGTON, DC – Dr. Theodore C. Papaloizos fell asleep in the Lord surrounded with love on February 3, five days before what would have been his 98th birthday. He is the beloved husband of Maria Papaloizos, loving father of Maria Xereas, Gus (Lucille) Papaloizos, John Papaloizos, Chrissi Sprague, Steve (Victoria) Papaloizos, and Dimitri (Monika) Papaloizos, adored grandfather of John Xereas, Ted Xereas, Michael (Sheena) Sprague, Juliana and Aris Papaloizos, cherished brother of the late Sophia Lignos, the late James Loizos and the late Aphrodite Tzaperas. 

Dr. Papaloizos is survived by many loving family members, friends here and abroad.

Due to COVID-19 gathering restrictions, a private funeral and interment service was held at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church of Washington, DC.

Memorial contributions may be made, in memory of Dr. Theodore C. Papaloizos, to Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church of Washington, DC – Greek Language School Ministry, 701 Norwood Road, Silver Spring, MD 20905, or online at www.schgoc.org.

Dr. Papaloizos’ family submitted the loving tribute which follows:

In a 2018 interview with the National Herald, Dr. Theodore Papaloizos summarized his life motto in four simple sentences:

“Love what you’re doing. Don’t expect to conquer the world. Be satisfied with the simple things you have. And be kind to people.”

To Theodore, this probably seemed straightforward: just four simple steps to happiness. But these building blocks of his character were achieved through a magnitude of vision, an unfailing determination, and a work ethic unparalleled.

First, love what you’re doing: Theodore was driven by a devotion to education. He was constantly surrounded by literature – the great works of Sophocles and Homer beside his desk, the Washington Post on his nightstand. His interests varied in this way; he could seamlessly weave a fact about the Peloponnesian War into conversation during a Redskins’ commercial break. Even as a young boy, Theodore’s desire to learn propelled him forward; he saved money after high school to continue his education at the University of Athens and, eventually, earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland. Theodore’s eldest son, Gus, remembers his dad eating dinner while standing over the kitchen sink – a common occurrence while he worked two jobs and simultaneously studied for his doctorate in Greek and Latin Classical Studies at Catholic University. Decades later, his youngest son, Dimitri, would have a similar vision of his father, writing for hours behind his little Macintosh computer.

Theodore had graduated to full-time teacher and author and, in these recollections, he takes his meals sitting down at the dinner table, having come a long way since night school. This was before the age of Google so, if a question arose, Theodore would retrieve a book in order to best illustrate his point. This picture of the professor, retreating to his shelves to find a kernel of knowledge hidden where only he could find, is a simple yet beautiful sketch of Theodore and epitomizes what his life, to a large extent, was about: education.

However, if education was Theodore’s life force, music was his passion. He was a traditionalist and fascinated by Byzantine liturgical chant. He held the position of Choir Director for 60 years (first at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral and then at Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church of Washington, D.C.), and he was as proud of this position as he was of his publishing business. The choir was his community, his collection of friends, and cars would line the block at Auth Lane each week for practice. In these moments, Theodore was in his element as the house filled with singing voices and happy commotion.

Don’t expect to conquer the world: These words epitomize Theodore’s humility for, in fact, his achievements illustrate that he did endeavor to conquer the world. When he was born in Cairo, Egypt on February 8, 1923, no one could have imagined that his life would span nearly 98 years across three continents; that he would display a brilliant mind and teach thousands of Greek children how to speak his native language; that he would build his own company and become one of the foremost educators of the Modern Greek language; and, most importantly, that he would be blessed with two loving marriages, six devoted children, and five grandchildren.

His was an extraordinary journey that began as the son of poor Cypriot refugees. Even his name seemed fated: ignoring tradition, his mother chose Theodore – which means “gift of God” – and, thus, he escaped the family curse of Haralambos, his grandfather’s name. Theodore immigrated to the United States in 1946 with his first wife, Angela Manganas, where he was hired to teach Greek in Pittsburgh and then eventually in Washington, DC. Theodore was entrepreneurial. When he recognized the need for better textbooks, he got up and wrote them himself – the better the books, the fewer the ears he would have to pull. He founded Papaloizos Publications, a company that has thrived for over 60 years, and his textbooks are now used by Greek schools and universities throughout the world. Moreover, his contributions to Greek language education have been recognized by many organizations, including AHEPA, the Greek Cypriot Educational Association, and the National Forum of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians.

Also, every Greek person in the tri-state area can proudly claim that, at some point, he was their teacher.

Be satisfied with the simple things you have: For all of his professional accomplishments, Theodore was a family man at heart, happiest when surrounded by his wife, children, and grandchildren. Every summer, Theodore returned to Crete with his second wife, Maria Chronakis (as promised to his father-in-law), where he created his own version of paradise at the white house of Bali. Like Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams: if he built it, they would come. And they did – his family, his friends, his family’s friends. Theodore cherished all visitors, and anyone who has spent time in Bali values the memory of him holding council on his terrace overlooking the Aegean.

And, finally, be kind to people: Theodore joins the ranks of great thinkers and philosophers who spoke of kindness. More importantly, these were words he lived by, in both big and small ways. He was a great writer of cards. He never said no to his children. He extended himself for others without expecting anything in return – whether with a smile or a deposit on a house. His generosity reached beyond his family, a fact to which his nurses at dialysis will attest, having grown accustomed to large impromptu lunches from Greek Village.

For a man who was always thinking, working, and pursuing a higher goal, the details of his life encompass many different versions of “Theodore”: he was also a running star in Cyprus, he once owned a bakery on Connecticut Avenue, he preferred Sophocles to Aeschylus. In the most recent profile of him, published on January 31, the National Herald chose the persona of “the man who spread the Greek language.” This is true. But, perhaps more inspiring, are the words Theodore’s two children, Maria and Gus, used to describe his presence: one that filled a space and commanded attention without ever being loud. He didn’t speak often but, when he did, you could hear a pin drop.

In the end, all are cherished memories, whether your image of Theodore is one of an ear pull, or him blowing into a pitch pipe, or your trusted sidekick as his youngest daughter, or a husband faithfully by your side each day for 46 years. Theodore’s kindness brought each person close to him and, as such, thousands of people will continue his legacy. The COVID pandemic did not allow everyone to honor him in person; still, his family gathers around him now – all different generations of Papaloizos bonded together out of their love for a truly remarkable individual. He must certainly know that he conquered the world.

May his memory be truly eternal!


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