BOSTON – On Monday, May 23, during a dinner in his honor hosted by Boston College, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, upon seeing George Papalymperis, got up from his table, walked towards him and embraced him warmly. The Prime Minister’s wife, Mareva Mitsotaki, followed him as well. Everyone’s eyes turned to Papalymperis, as he was embraced by the Prime Minister and his wife.
Very few people knew that this kind gentleman, who was among the guests of the Prime Minister of Greece, was his legendary barber from the years of Mitsotakis’ studies at Harvard University, in the square where he still runs his barber shop called ‘Laflamme’. Papalymperis had predicted at the time that Mitsotakis would one day rise high and become the leader of Greece.
Papalymperis comes from the village of Loganiko in Lakonia and before coming to America he was a police officer in Athens at the Secret Security Department of Kifissia. His wife Anna, also from Loganiko, had come to America and during a visit to Greece, they met, fell in love, and afterwards got married – they moved to America in 1964.
Papalymperis told The National Herald, “for a few months I worked in a factory which manufactured aluminum windows and doors and then I started working at barbershops. I knew some basics from Greece, here I went to school, got my license, worked in a couple of different barbershops, and then after about 13 months, on January 15, 1967, I opened my own in Central Square, Cambridge. But the area there was not good. There were many drug addicts and alcoholics, so I said ‘this area is not for me. I came here for a better life and not to have to deal with drug addicts and drunks. So I found a place in Harvard Square near Harvard University and there I entered a different America – and I said to myself this is the America I was looking for.”
Over time, Papalymperis has opened four barbershops, two in Harvard Square and two in the nearby town of Lexington. He has now sold one in Lexington while he still owns the other three.
When asked how he met Mitsotakis, he said, “when he came to Harvard as a student he came to my shop and I cut his hair all the years he was a student. He was both a good friend and a good guy. From that time Kyriakos was wise. He was a kid you liked and you wanted to have him in your shop like. When he finished, he went to England worked and went back to Harvard Business School and came back to my shop again.”
When asked if he ever expected him to become the Prime Minister of Greece when cutting the young Mitsotakis’ hair back then, he said, “I saw the qualities he had as a kid and his character – I suspected it. I told myself that one day he will be great.”
Mitsotakis never forgot his barber. Papalymperis said that “every time he comes to Boston he stops at the shop to see me,” and added “I like him because he is a good man. He’s not like other politicians. In the summer of the elections I went to Greece with my wife and we voted with our friends in my village.”
When asked, “what did you say on Monday when you met and he hugged you?”, Papalymperis said that, “we didn’t say much because the man was busy. I didn’t want to bother him, and he added, “I felt great pride when I heard him speak at Boston College and the University honored him with a doctorate. I have told friends that he is the new Venizelos, that is what I call him. He is very dynamic. He doesn’t talk much, but when he does he really knows what he is talking about.”
Great minds have passed through Papalymperis’ barbershop. One of them was former President of the United States Barack Obama. Papalymperis said that, “when Obama was a student at Harvard Law School, I used to cut his hair, and many times I told professors who came to the shop that if he was white he would be President of America – and he made it,”
Papalymperis George and his wife Anna had three children, one of whom they lost. Their son is a doctor at Portland Hospital in Portland (Maine) and their daughter is an operations director at Harvard’s Kennedy School.