EDITOR’S NOTE (Nick Stamatakis).  I was truly saddened to hear that George Karcazes passed away a few days ago – although it is relieving to know that his family surrounded him.  In the last part of his very active life, I had the privilege to have a few quite informing, lengthy nightly conversations in the aftermath of the 2018-19 sudden eruption of a renewed “autocephaly” demand for the Church of America – that was, unfortunately, destined not to be successful.  George was an extremely knowledgeable lawyer and a dedicated true leader of our Church and community, someone who had the chance in his long productive life with the Church “to meet close and personal every Patriarch of Constantinople and every archbishop of America after WWII” as he stated to me in one occasion. May he rest in peace!

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George D, Karcazes
(August 11, 1938 – June 6, 2024)

George Demetrios Karcazes fell asleep in the Lord on June 6, 2024, in the presence of his wife and children, and surrounded by their love, devotion, admiration, and their great comfort in knowing that their husband and father had lived a life of consequence, courage, and commitment to his ideals. George’s life was marked with the achievements of a clear-eyed idealist, in his roles as a longtime Chicago attorney, bank builder, community and church leader, and indefatigable volunteer for a host of endeavors in which he believed. His absence from this world leaves a hole that many people must resolve to work together to fill.

George was born in Chicago, Illinois on August 11,1938 to Demetrios Karcazes and Panagiota “Pitsa” Karcazes (Saramantis), the second of two sons for his loving parents. When George was 15 years old his beloved older brother Connie was killed in a car accident, a tragedy which stayed with him throughout his life. A mere five months later his father passed away after a year-long battle with cancer. George’s mother Pitsa passed away in 2014 at the age of 101, a remarkable pro-yiayia to her four great-grandkids.

Demetrios and Pitsa believed their boys would realize the American Dream through hard work and a great education. Convinced that the University of Chicago was the best school for their children, the boys were enrolled at the University’s High School. After Connie’s and Demetrios’ untimely deaths, George and Pitsa fervently took care of each other as only a Greek mother and son can do. Pitsa worked tirelessly as a seamstress, showing George the virtue of hard work. From the time he was 15 years old, if he wasn’t studying, George worked various jobs including sorting mail at the Old Chicago Post Office, leading athletic programs for inmates at the Cook County jail, stacking telephone books at a printing company, and selling ice cream from a push cart. Throughout his years at the University of Chicago George ran track, excelling at the quarter mile. Coach Ted Haydon treated George like a son and continued to mentor and guide him well after his years on the team. George often shared stories with his family about setting a short-lived world record in the mile relay, and the challenges of travel during the Jim Crow era. When a restaurant refused to serve some of his teammates, George demanded they find a place to eat that would accommodate the entire team, regardless of color; when some schools wouldn’t allow his teammates to use the same locker room because of their race, the entire team refused the medals they won. George always had a firm conviction and belief in standing up for what was right, from a young age until the day he passed.

George graduated from law school at the age of 21, demonstrating diligence, character and an intellect that were the hallmarks of his 50+ years as a practicing lawyer. Always a patriot and believing in the duty of citizenship, George joined the Air Force, training and serving as a surgical nurse for 6 months of active duty and 6 years in the active reserves. He was reviewing WWII history with his grandsons just days before he passed away on the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

In 1964 George co-founded the law firm of Martin & Karcazes, Ltd. George also served as the general counsel for the Metropolitan Bank Group and his friend Peter Fasseas. They worked alongside each other for decades, building the bank into a paragon of community banking in the Chicagoland community.

In July of 1970 George made arguably his best decision, and married Roula Constance Christos, a hardworking school teacher who loved him with honesty and devotion throughout their 50+ years of marriage. George and Roula celebrated the births of their children: Demetrios in 1974 and Matina in 1976. They raised Dimitri and Matina in Wilmette, but like his parents before him, George’s devotion to education and his children was such that he drove them to Hyde Park so they could also attend the University of Chicago High School. George also enjoyed driving the family to Longboat Key, FL in their 1970 tobacco brown Mercedes 280 SL, which only occasionally broke down mid-trip. George and Roula welcomed Jena Wixson and Dean Marks into their family, when they wed Dimitri and Matina respectively. George was blessed with four grandsons: Constantine and Miles Karcazes and George and Constantine Marks.

Influenced by his Orthodox Christian faith and Greek background, George’s spirit found an outlet through his involvement in a number of charitable and volunteer activities. He served as a member of the Board of Directors – and eventually as president – of the Hellenic Foundation, the Hellenic Professional Society of Illinois, and the Hellenic Bar Association of Illinois. He was a founder of the United Hellenic American Congress and on the editorial board of the Greek Star. George was a devout Christian, serving on the parish council at Saints Constantine and Helen Church, the church he grew up in, and later as president and long-term parish council member at Saints Peter and Paul Church. He was a longtime board member of PAWS Chicago, the pet-saving organization founded by his friend Paula Fasseas. George was a dedicated founding member, and several-time president, of the Orthodox Christian Laity, a group of lay people across America of all Orthodox Christian ethnicities, focused on cooperation between lay people and clergy leaders in the governance of Orthodox churches within a new American reality. On word of George’s death, Archbishop Michael of the Orthodox Church in America mourned his passing, writing: “I respected George as one of the lay visionaries of a united Church in America.”

In George’s spare time, limited as it was, he enjoyed traveling, spending time with his family, in particular his four grandsons, and writing. Over his lifetime he wrote about politics, most notably the invasion of Cyprus, which culminated with visits to the White House. He wrote about the future of Orthodoxy and advocated for a united Orthodox Church. George gave voice to those who needed it, perhaps no more eloquently than when he wrote, just weeks ago, to support his youngest grandson and protest the elimination of a children’s sports program: “It has taken seven decades for me to protest a policy decision of my alma mater. Yet here I am. Too old to engage in empty gestures, my own voice of protest seeks to find a way back towards dialogue and compromise.”

George was a man of character. He was a mentor and friend to many and was beloved by his family. May his memory be an eternal blessing.

Visitation Thursday, June 13, 2024, from 4:00pm-8:00pm at NH Scott & Hanekamp, 1240 Waukegan Rd, Glenview. 6pm Trisagion. Family and Friends will meet on Friday, June 14, 2024, at Sts Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, 11025 S Roberts Road, Palos Hills for visitation at 10:00am and funeral service at 10:30am. Internment Evergreen Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, contributions to Orthodox Christian Laity, PO Box 6954, West Palm Beach, Florida 33405 would be appreciated.

Arrangements by Memory Eternal Funeral Directors, Ltd. (847) 375-0095.

Link to the obituary on ocl.orghttps://ocl.org/in-memory-of-george-demetrios-karcazes/.

 

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