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This Week in History: April 13th to 19th

APRIL 15TH:

On this day in 1946, Stylianos Kyriakides won the 50th Boston Marathon, the only Cypriot athlete to win the event. Born near Paphos in Cyprus, Kyriakides was the youngest of five children. He left home at an early age so that he could find work to help his family. He landed a job working for Dr. Cheverton, a British medical officer, who encouraged him to start running. An athlete himself, Dr. Cheverton saw potential in Kyriakides and bought him his first set of running gear and gave him coaching advice. In 1938, Kyriakides came to the U.S. by ship to run in the Boston Marathon. However, he had to drop out because of blisters he developed from running with a new pair of sneakers and no socks. It has been said that he promised Jerry Nason, the Boston Globe sports editor at the time, that he would return to America and win the race. After World War II, Kyriakides, now 36-years-old, decided to sell his furniture in order to buy a ticket to come back to Boston for another chance at winning the Marathon. When he crossed the finish line of the race, he shouted, “For Greece!” As a result of his win, the United States sent Kyriakides back to Greece with the ‘Kyriakides Aid Package’ which included 25,000 tons of supplies and $250,000 in cash for the war-stricken Greek nation. Today, at the 1-mile mark of the Boston Marathon stands a 12-foot-tall statue called the Spirit of the Marathon. The statue depicts Spyridon Louis, the Greek winner of the first modern Olympic marathon in 1896, and Kyriakides.

 

APRIL 16TH:

On this day in 1996, Stavros Spyros Niarchos, the Greek shipping magnate, died at the age of 86. Niarchos was born in Athens but his family had its roots in the Laconian village of Vamvakou in the Peloponnese. He studied law at the University of Athens and began working in 1929 in his family’s grain business. Recognizing the substantial transportation expense in importing wheat, Niarchos believed that one would save money by owning the ships that provided the transportation. As a result, he bought his first six freighters during the Great Depression. Niarchos served in the Greek Navy during World War II. While he served, the Allied Forces leased one of his vessels which was ultimately destroyed in battle. Niarchos saw this as an opportunity and used the insurance funds as capital to expand his fleet after the War. Thus began the emergence of Stavros Niarchos as a significant participant in the world of international commerce. For many years he owned the largest private fleet in the world. Although Niarchos passed away more than twenty years ago, his legacy continues into the 21st century with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. Working in Greece and internationally, the Foundation began its grant-making efforts in 1996 and derives its mission from Niarchos’ commitment to Greece and Hellenism, as well as his keen instincts and interests in support of causes in the fields of education, social welfare, health, arts, and culture.

 

APRIL 17TH:

On this day in 2012, Dimitris Mitropanos, the Greek singer renowned for his mastery of Laiko music, passed away at the age of 64. Born in Trikala on April 2, Mitropanos began his music career in 1964 – prior to finishing high school. In 1967, Mitropanos recorded his first album with the song ‘Thessaloniki’. During his lifetime, Mitropanos worked with some of the most renowned Greek composers – such as Mikis Theodorakis, Thanos Mikroutsikos, and Manos Hatzidakis. Mitropanos died of a heart attack/pulmonary edema and was buried in the First Cemetery of Athens. He was survived by his two daughters and his wife, Venia. It has been said that Mitropanos instructed his family not to accept a state funeral if it was offered. Indeed, it was offered, and his family declined the offer and covered the costs of the funeral themselves.

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