Athanasios “Tom” Metaxas

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Athanasios “Tom” Metaxas

<p>“In the time of your life, live – so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it.”</p><p>- William Saroyan</p><p><br></p><p>There was seldom a day in the long and quietly marvelous life of Athanasios “Tom” Metaxas when he could not find something to celebrate, appreciate, or fill him with wonder. His joyful embrace of this life and his insatiable love of learning anchored him to this world until the very end, which came for him on June 1st. He died peacefully in his sleep in the loving care of his family in Virginia, after a long illness in which he far exceeded the expectations for his survival. He was 97.</p><p><br></p><p>Tom was born in 1926 in Athens, Greece, in a neighborhood in the shadow of the Acropolis. His father Theodoros Metaxas died in 1943, a victim of the deprivations of the German occupation of Greece in World War II. His mother, Efthemia (Damilatis) Metaxas (d. 1980), a strong-willed descendant of Demetrios “Papa” Flessas, a priest and influential leader in the 1821 Greek War of Independence, single-handedly raised Tom and his two sisters Zoe (d. 2013) and Tasia (d. 2001), and instilled her strength, courage and independent spirit into each of them. In an early example of his intolerance for injustice, Tom recalled throwing stones at Nazi soldiers walking through the neighborhood. He later reflected that, had he not been a child, he would have been shot for these dangerous acts of pre-adolescent rebellion, and that the fact that he survived was clear evidence that he had been born under a very lucky star indeed. Tom lived to fight another day… and to finish his education as a mechanical engineer, serve in the Greek military for two years, apprentice under a master artisan working in wrought iron, and to eventually open his own shop creating beautiful installations of intricately scrolled ironwork, a few of which are still extant in Athens today.</p><p><br></p><p>As a young man, Tom started a life-long love affair with the open road. Traveling on a beast of a BMW motorcycle became one of his defining characteristics, and led to him being among the first people in his town to own a car. In 1951, Tom’s good friend and riding buddy introduced him to Angeliki (“Koula”) Pitsilos, the woman who would become his wife, the mother of his children Orsalia &amp; Theodore, his impetus to adventure and simultaneously his most stabilizing influence, his soulmate, his sounding board, his rock and his partner in mischief for the rest of their days. They married in 1961 and would walk shoulder to shoulder for the next 57 years, until Koula’s death in 2018 at the age of 91.</p><p><br></p><p>Meanwhile, the situation in Greece could best be described as a Chinese curse: the people were living in “interesting” times. Civil war followed by seismic cultural changes leading to desperate attempts on the part of the old guard to maintain the status quo, and culminating in a military generals’ coup hated by just about everyone… it was time to go. Tom and Koula, just into their 40s with two small children, giving up all that they knew and loved, and without a word of English between them, immigrated to the United States. With the love and support of Koula’s siblings Maria (Pitisilos) Kotsarides (d. 2011) and Antonios Pitsilos (d. 2021) and their families, the Metaxas family arrived at New York’s Kennedy Airport on April 28, 1968 (just three weeks after the assassination of Martin Luther King), and began their new life in America.</p><p><br></p><p>It was one of Tom’s foundational principles that family is the most profound connection that a human being can have, but “family” is not defined only by blood; it can be created by choice. In 1970, Tom settled his family in the small New England town of Dudley, Massachusetts, where he and Koula made their home for the next 27 years. It is here that the family integrated into a cohesive community including many Greek families, some of whom became lifelong friends who remain “family” to this day. To Tom, the best thing about having a community of loved ones was that there was always something to celebrate, and the home he and Koula created in Dudley was regularly filled with music, laughter and of course, feasting. Tom was as musical as he was technical, and there was never a party at which his guitar and wonderful voice were not as integral as friends and food.</p><p><br></p><p>In 1973, Tom proudly became a naturalized American citizen. He honored his Greek heritage until the day he died, but he embraced his new home and the promise it represented with all of his heart and mind. It should be noted that the magnificent U.S. interstate highway system may or may not have been material to Tom’s unconditional embrace of his new country, but a review of the evidence strongly suggests that he never met a road trip he didn’t like. He happily passed this trait to his children (sometimes to the consternation of their spouses).</p><p><br></p><p>Tom and Koula retired from their respective positions at Ethan Allen (an American maker of fine furniture) in 1989, and then the fun really began. A vacation driving with friends down the East Coast eventually brought them to the town of Tarpon Springs, Florida, where a thriving Greek community had grown around the historic sponge-diving industry. Tom and Koula were entranced. Within the year, they had purchased the little bungalow that became their home base, and quickly established a new community of friends. Tom immediately became active in several social and cultural groups, including the Athenian Association, the Hellenic Benevolent Association, and the Prometheus Panhellenic Association. He cherished his new community for all 34 of his remaining years.</p><p><br></p><p>In retirement, Tom’s love of driving, paired with an aging but reliable white motor home they affectionately referred to as “Marmaro” (pronounced “mar-MA-ro,” loosely translating to “made of marble”), allowed them to explore the wonders of the U.S. to their hearts content, all the way across the country to San Fransico and back. Twice. While in their late sixties, with limited English and no GPS… yeah, the word you’re looking for is “indomitable.” When not making the rest of us look downright staid, they would spend a good part of every year in their native Greece, visiting beloveds and using it as a base for hopping to European cities, Egypt, Israel, and Turkey. After Marmaro was retired, they turned their attention to ocean cruises, often to South America and the Caribbean, and north to Alaska.</p><p><br></p><p>Tom’s greatest happiness arrived into the world in January 1996, when his first and only grandchild, Athena Metaxas, was born and he and Koula became grandparents. Watching their absolutely adorable grandbaby grow into a beautiful, strong, respectful young woman gave them both such joy, and truly made their life complete. Tom was especially proud when Athena chose to give up a corporate career and instead pursue a career in law enforcement, where her strength of character, quick analytical mind, and thoughtful and compassionate nature make her a priceless asset to her force, and to our society as a whole.</p><p><br></p><p>“Retirement” notwithstanding, Tom swore that the secret to his long, mostly healthy and wholly wonderful life was that he never stopped learning, moving, working or finding wonder in the monumental changes he witnessed throughout his life. When he was not travelling, he was at his small commercial rental property (“the Plaza”) every day, fixing whatever needed fixing, maintaining the grounds, and socializing with his tenants. It seemed there was nothing he could not do, and he never felt more fulfilled than when we was solving a problem. In his last couple of years, as his illness took its toll and his children tried to reign in his enthusiastic (possibly bordering on reckless) self-reliance, it took an extensive collaboration of tenants and neighbors who regularly threatened to report him to his daughter to keep him from scurrying up tall ladders. It was only in the last 6 months of his life that he accepted that it was time to let his daughter and beloved son in law care for him to the end. The time was a precious gift to both of them.</p><p><br></p><p>Tom was preceded in death by his beloved wife and co-adventurer, Koula, and his nephew Theodore Bourelos. He is survived by his daughter Lia and her husband Marc Imhoff; his son Theodore and his wife Karen, and their daughter Athena and her wife, Kendra. He is also survived by his nieces Jeanie Tsakonas and Penelope Normoyle; their respective spouses Alex Tsakonas and Gene Normoyle, and their children Kristen Normoyle, and Maria &amp; Chris Tsakonas, all of whom he considered his essential family. Tom leaves many beloved family members in Greece and in Canada, as well as a world of friends whose presence in his life he treasured, and which helped make his life, in his eyes and ours, downright extraordinary.</p><p><br></p><p>May his memory be a blessing; may his memory be eternal.</p><p><br></p><p><br></p><p>All Services will be held at:</p><p>Curlew Hills Memory Gardens</p><p>1750 Curlew Rd.</p><p>Palm Harbor, FL, 34683</p><p><br></p><p>Visitation: Tuesday, June 11, 5:00pm to 7:00pm</p><p>Funeral Service and Burial: Wednesday, June 12, beginning at 10:00am</p><p><br></p>
October 13, 1926 - June 1, 202410/13/192606/01/2024
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Athanasios “Tom” Metaxas
Athanasios “Tom” Metaxas
3 Trees have been planted in memory of Athanasios Metaxas.

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The Fleischer family- Melissa, Mark, Noah and Macy

June 11, 2024

The planting of 1 memorial tree in the honor of Athanasios “Tom” Metaxas has been arranged by The Fleischer family- Melissa, Mark, Noah and Macy. Plant a tree
Lia and Marc- With deepest condolences on the loss of your beloved father and father-in-law. May blessed memories of him sustain you.
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Anonymous

June 11, 2024

The planting of 1 memorial tree in the honor of Athanasios “Tom” Metaxas has been arranged by Anonymous. Plant a tree
In loving memory of our Very Beloved Athanasios Metaxas. Your charming personality brought bright colors into every room. We love you forever.
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Anonymous

June 11, 2024

The planting of 1 memorial tree in the honor of Athanasios “Tom” Metaxas has been arranged by Anonymous. Plant a tree
Our sincere condolences for the loss of your dear father Thanasis! May his memory be eternal. You are in our thoughts!