Lambrou, Gus ITHACA - Longtime Ithaca resident and prominent Collegetown businessman Constantinos (Gus) E. Lambrou, passed away unexpectedly of natural causes at his home this past Thursday morning, January 12. He was 85 years of age, and just five weeks shy of his 86th birthday. Gus was born in Kosovitsa of Northern Epiros on February 17, 1931 to Evangelos and Kalliroy Lambrou. The younger of two sons, the village of his birth is now located in present-day southern Albania, near the Greek border. Evangelos Lambrou owned and operated a bakery in Athens. He sent money from afar to support his family, and would visit the peaceful mountain-situated village when he could. He summoned Kalliroy to bring their children to Athens just before the outbreak of World War II in 1939. She guided two young boys on foot - in the dead of night, with enemy soldiers patrolling a very rugged frontier - during an arduous journey to Athens well over 300 miles away, leaving many relatives and all belongings behind. That was the last time anyone in the Lambrou family saw their home village for the next 50 years. The Axis Powers had sealed the border before the end of the war, and Albania did not reopen its borders again until 1989, by which time Greek minorities in the region were devastated by longstanding Albanian isolation and hostility. Meanwhile, Nazi authorities then occupying Athens seized Evangelos Lambrou's bakery, placing immense economic hardship on the Lambrou family. No stranger to poverty while growing up in war-torn Greece, Gus helped organize a local soccer league in Athens, as well as roadtrips with his teammates and friends. As a young man, he sold roses, buttons and fabrics to passersby on the streets of Athens to help support his family. But he also knew that in order to make more progress, he needed to leave Greece and go to America. Gus first came to the United States from Greece in 1956. He never saw his father alive again. He followed his (late) beloved brother George, who was completing physical therapy studies at Ithaca College, to America. The two brothers also had a maternal aunt (Olga Kostakis) who had settled in the Finger Lakes region by 1920. Gus's first job was with the Penn Yan Boat Company which, at the time, manufactured wooden canoes, rowboats and sailboats. He eventually relocated to Ithaca, where he worked three jobs a day, seven days a week, for the next three years at the College Spa, Frozen Gold and Mickey's Market. He saved enough money to purchase Campus Grocery on Eddy Street from the Longo family in September 1959, and gradually expanded into the real estate and travel agent business. He finally went back to Greece after five years for his father's one-year memorial service. He met his wife to-be, Maria, in May of 1961. They were married at Saint Constantine's Church in Athens on July 2, 1961 (a little over a month after they first met). It was a semi-arranged marriage that lasted for the next 55-plus years. When they celebrated their Golden Anniversary at the Ithaca Yacht Club in 2011, Gus and Maria received official greetings from President Obama, Governor Cuomo, Senator Schumer and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. Then Mayor of Ithaca Carolyn Peterson also issued an official city proclamation to mark the milestone occasion. "Gus's Grocery," as it had come to be known, became a center for political debate in Collegetown, both with fellow Greeks and many Cornell students. Gus was so popular with students that he made the 1967 Cornell Annual Student Year Book, even though he himself was never a student there. Though Campus Grocery was a successful business for a number of years, Gus realized that the emerging supermarket industry was too much competition, so he purchased Stone Travel Agency right across the street in 1974, and phased out his grocery store in 1975. Selling Stone Travel in 1985, he then acquired Beam Travel Center in downtown Ithaca, which was then Tompkins County's largest travel business. After selling Beam Travel in 2002, he focused even more squarely on his real estate enterprise. Over the last six decades, Lambrou Real Estate steadily grew into one of Ithaca's most successful local businesses, and his tenants loved him. Many would often visit him even years after they graduated and left the area. When Gus redeveloped the property on 405-409 Eddy Street in 1982-84 (which he then co-owned with his brother), he sparked a development boom that completely transformed Collegetown. He also once owned the property on the corner of Seneca and Tioga Streets, which was converted to what is now Ithaca's Hilton Garden Inn. When that project was completed in 2005, it spurred the redevelopment of downtown Ithaca. Consistent with his keen interest in politics and unremitting love for America and Greece, Gus also worked closely with (former) Congressman Matt McHugh on Hellenic issues abroad, and himself ran for alderman against the late Ethel Nichols in 1977. He still holds the record for most votes cast for a Republican candidate in Ithaca's heavily Democratic Fourth Ward, with 165. He was also a member of the local Rotary Club, and right until the day before he passed away, he went to his office every day. He was a familiar presence in Ithaca's business community. A pillar of the local Greek American community, he helped many of his fellow Greeks establish legal citizenship in this country. And he was staunch and faithful supporter of his local church. He was always among the top five stewards annually of Saint Catherine Greek Orthodox Church in downtown Ithaca, and had served its parish council as both president and treasurer. He was also very well liked by many people in the wider Ithaca community, and had many non-Greek friends who thought the world of him. Above all else, Gus was a great family man. He never forgot his parents; he deeply loved his brother; he was totally dedicated to his supremely devoted wife Maria; and was an unwaveringly committed father to his three loving sons: Evan (Iris), Nick (Sharon) and Paul (Andreani). Abbe Prevost's words, "The heart of a father is the masterpiece of nature," barely do him justice, and his sons all went to college. Evan and Nick are graduates of Washington University in St. Louis, and Paul is a graduate of Syracuse University. Gus is also survived by six cherished and adoring grandchildren: Costa, Andreas, Alex, Constantinos (Dina), Maria-Angela (Dina) and Apostolos. His eldest grandson Costa is a recent graduate of Cornell. Calling hours and funeral services will be held conjointly at St. Catherine's Church in downtown Ithaca (corner of Seneca and Geneva Streets) on Monday, January 16. Viewing will be at 9:30-11 AM. Funeral will follow at 11 AM until 12 PM. Funeral will be officiated by Rev. Fr. Tom Parthenakis (pastor) and Dr. Emmanuel Giannelis (chanter). A traditional makaria luncheon in honor of Gus's memory will be held with friends and family at the Ithaca Country Club after the funeral. Burial will be at East Lawn Cemetery in the spring. Funeral arrangements by Bangs Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, the Lambrou family respectfully requests that memorial donations be made to St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church (120 W. Seneca Street, Ithaca, NY 14850, TEL. 607-273-2767).
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