Businessman Melis Papadopoulos adapted well in adopted country
Melis Papadopoulos had made a life for himself and his family in their native Cyprus, but he gave it all up to come to America to make his wife happy.
“My mother’s mother had come here, and so had my uncle, her brother,” said Mr. Papadopoulos’s daughter, Frosso Kolokouris of Forest Hills. “After a while, she just missed her mother. She wanted to come here.”
So the family, including 8-year-old Frosso, moved from their opulent home in Cyprus to Forest Hills, where Mr. Papadopoulos reinvented himself.
“It was difficult to him. but my grandfather was a (Greek Orthodox) priest, and my father asked him, ‘What should I do?'” Kolokouris said. “He said, ‘You need to keep your family together.’ So that’s what he did.”
Melis Papadopoulos died Friday, Oct. 1, 2010. He was 95.
Kolokouris said her father owned a variety store in Cyprus. He sold material by the yard and even had people working for him making clothing for the store. The family lived in a 25-room home that had been handed down from the family of his wife, Gregoria.
“It was a beautiful home,” Kolokouris said. “They had orange trees and lemon trees in the garden. It was so big we had to break it up into a rental.”
But Gregoria Papadopoulos longed to be near her mother. So in 1952, Mr. Papadopoulos gave up his business and moved the family to Forest Hills, where they stayed with relatives before finding a place of their own.
Mr. Papadopoulos began looking for work to support his family and found it in Ohringer’s, a furniture store in Braddock.
“He needed a job, and someone that had worked for Ohringer’s said they could use someone that could tear furniture apart,” Kolokouris said.
Mr. Papadopoulos learned the upholstery trade from the ground up, eventually working as a specialty upholsterer for Star Upholstery in Braddock and East End Upholstery.
“He used to do a lot of private work on his own,” Kolokouris added, saying her father’s reputation grew by word of mouth.
As he worked to make a life for his family, another daughter came along four years after the family moved to Forest Hills.
Violet Perez of Texas said she grew up in a household that spoke Greek and English, but mostly Greek.
“It was a very interesting bicultural background that we were raised in,” Perez said.
She and her sister marveled at what a hard worker their father was. He finally retired at age 75.
“He was such a hard-working guy but always made time for us,” Perez said. “He came to all our activities whether it was a concert or whatever it was. He always made time for his kids.”
Mr. Papadopoulos enjoyed gardening and fixing things.
“He could repair anything,” Kolokouris said. “He was like that ever since I was a little girl.”
He had a great fondness for the written word.
“He was a fellow who loved to educate himself by reading,” Perez said. “He didn’t have a university education, but he learned a lot just by reading.”
And he loved his native Cyprus.
“If you got him on the subject of Cyprus, boy, he could tell you stories till the cows came home,” Perez said.
Mr. Papadopoulos was able to return to Cyprus several times after moving to America.
“He lived a good life,” Kolokouris said. “He worked hard all his life, but he lived a very good life.”
He and his wife celebrated 50 years of marriage before her death.
In addition to two daughters, Mr. Papadopoulos is survived by four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 2 to 4 and 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday in Patrick T. Lanigan Funeral Home, 700 Linden Ave., East Pittsburgh, where a Trisagion will be prayed at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday in the Presentation of Christ Greek Orthodox Church (Ypapanti), with viewing in the church a half hour before the service.
Memorial donations may be made to Ypapanti, P.O. Box J, East Pittsburgh, PA 15112.