The news of the death of Eugene T. Rossides, although somewhat expected, shocked me.
Our lives converged in a strange, almost mysterious way. It was as if God took each of us by the hand and drew one close to the other, despite the fact that he was born and raised in Brooklyn and I on the island of Lemnos.
What is certain is that the late Eugene – Gene to his friends – greatly influenced the course of my life, as well as the life of our Community – without there being much between us in the beginning and without knowing each other well.
So, when I took the train to Washington in March 2010, where I was going to spend the day with Eugene, interviewing him, I had multiple goals:
First, I did it out of gratitude because he was the publisher of Ethnikos Kirikas (The National Herald) for about a year-and-a-half, and it was with him that I negotiated with on behalf of the managing director of the newspaper at the time – who was also my friend, a journalist and a book author – George Leonardos, to purchase the newspaper.
I also did it because I was preoccupied with two questions: first, who was Rossidis? And, second, what was the real reason he bought The National Herald?
In its 105-year history, The National Herald was fortunate to have had just a few publishers, eight in total.
When the late Babis Marketos, the 5th publisher, after a successful 30-year career, passed the baton to Eugene Rossides, many wondered why he bought it, as there was a question of whether he could even read Greek.
At that time, the newspaper had only two pages in English, in its weekend edition.
It was alleged at the time that he had bought it because he wanted to run for the U.S. Senate in New York and thought it would be useful.
But that never happened.
So, on that day in March, in the building owned by the Hellenic American Institute (AHI), which was his creation and passion, I tried, but failed, to get a convincing answer to this question.
But I learned a lot about his life. And that helped me understand why he bought it.
Eugene Rossides had a very difficult childhood. His father, a doctor by profession, died almost immediately after his birth.
He was raised by his mother, who worked at her father's restaurant, and by his grandfather. During the Great Depression, his grandfather lost his restaurant.
Those were very difficult years.
It seems he never got over it. It haunted him all his life.
When he grew up and became a success (he became famous through his amazing career as a football player at Columbia University), he wanted to make a contribution to the Greek-American community and generally honor his Greek origins.
He was a deeply conscientious and hardcore American citizen. He would not stand a single word being said against America and was always ready to defend her.
He felt the same way about his Greek origin, even if he did not always show it.
And it was not only because of his father's Cypriot origin that he took to heart the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and dedicated many years of his life to fighting for justice in Cyprus.
That was made very clear to me.
It was, I understood, because he wanted to make a contribution to the community and society – to justify the sacrifices made on his behalf by his mother and grandfather.
But he did take personal offense to what happened in Cyprus.
He was furious with the politicians in Washington who allowed the invasion.
He believed that he could force them to redress the injustice.
By himself. As an equal – after all, he was a former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.
Admittedly, he was not an easy man to get along with. He was difficult and demanding – first and foremost on himself.
But he was very good to me. One day, a few months after I started working at the newspaper, and saw what was going on there, I called him in Washington and told him that I would resign.
He took the next plane to New York and came to convince me to stay.
“One day it will be yours,” he told me.
May his memory live forever.