Gus Stathis: A Lifetime of Philanthropy
By: Maria A. Karamitsos
CHICAGO—Giving back is very important, it’s imperative to keeping your culture and heritage alive. These words embody the philosophy of Gus Stathis, a lifelong philanthropist. Seeing Hellenism flourish is the driving force of this proud Greek.
(«Το να προσφέρεις είναι πολύ σημαντικό. Είναι επιτακτική ανάγκη να διατηρείς τον πολιτισμό και την κληρονομιά σου». Αυτές οι φράσεις κυριαρχούν στην δια βίου φιλοσοφία του Gus Stathis. Το να βλέπει την άνθιση του ελληνικού πνεύματος είναι η κινητήρια δύναμη αυτού του περήφανου Έλληνα.)
Konstantinos Stathopoulos was born “sometime in October,” 1913 in Glykorizion near Kyparissia in the Peloponnese. He began his working life at the age of 14, following his mother’s untimely death from pneumonia. From them on, he was virtually on his own, but determined to leave his mark in the world. Stathis worked hard, and made connections wherever he could. He came to the US in 1939. In Chicago, he settled on the South Side, and anglicized his name to “make it easier” for people. He’s led a storied life: military service in Greece and the US and numerous adventures along the way. His hard work, drive and networking skills are behind his success.
After working in restaurants for many years, he began working in real estate, then in construction.
“I tried hard to improve my life, but I got lucky, too. Timing is everything,” Stathis explained. “Luck is important too. I worked hard, but it helped me to pursue my dreams.”
Though Stathis had contributed to church and other charities for years, once he established himself, he ramped up his efforts, dedicating himself to the causes of Hellenism. His philanthropic works have brought him great joy.
The generous donor has supported several church communities in Chicago, including SS Constantine and Helen in Palos Hills, Saint Spyridon in Palos Heights, Saint Nicholas in Oak Lawn, Saint Basil in Chicago and SS Peter and Paul in Glenview, as well as churches in Arizona, Maryland and California and Florida, among others. Noting the importance of the proliferation of the Greek language, he has proudly supported many Greek schools, including Koraes Elementary School in Palos Hills, plus schools at Saint Raphael & Irene School in Palm Beach, Fla. and Holy Trinity in Clearwater, Fla.
In the 1960s, in response to an AHEPA fundraising effort, he donated the funds to purchase a heart/lung machine, which facilitated heart surgeries at Evangelismos Hospital in Greece. He donated to AHEPA for their project to add Greek history to the Congressional record. He’s also actively supported AHEPA’s efforts on Thalassemia research. He’s also supported drives for cancer and leukemia research.
Back in Greece, among his philanthropic works are refurbishing his village’s church.
It was a Stathis donation that created a seat at the University of South Florida at Tampa, to teach Ancient Greek History in perpetuity. “This is among my proudest moments,” he stated. Stathis is also the donor of more than $1,600,000 to the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago. “I wish them great success.”
Now 99, Stathis continues to spread Hellenism and donate to causes that promote his beloved culture. He’s currently developing some land in Beloit, Wisc., and all the streets bear the names of famous Hellenes—Plato Boulevard, Pericles Avenue, Acropolis Square, etc.
“Whatever I can do, I do it. I’m Greek; I take great pride in it all. I want to see our language and culture continue,” he said. “I emphasize what I have done because I want others to contribute as well. I want to stress the importance of giving back. Churches need our money and our support. If we didn’t have them, how would we marry, how would we baptize our children in our faith? We need them. Our culture needs our support. Let’s take the example of the Jews. They say together, they prosper, they help each other. We can do it, and keep the Greek culture strong and growing.”
Ο Κώστας Σταθόπουλος έχει γεννηθεί το 1913 στο Γλυκορρίζι, είναι δηλαδή 99 χρονών. Στην Αμερική πήγε το 1939 και είχε παντρευτεί τη Μαίρη, η καταγωγή της από το Βαρυμπόπι, είχε τρία αδέρφια στο χωριό,το Γλυκορρίζι,τον Αλέξη,το Μήτρο και τον Τάση,δύο αδερφές τη Γρηγορία, είχε παντρευτεί τον παππού του Νίκου Μπάλτα τον Θανάση Μπάλτα, στο Πιτσά και τη Γιαννούλα που είχε παντρευτεί το Διαμαντόπουλο, στο Κοπανάκι.
Είχε έναν αδερφό πάρει μαζί του, το Γιώργο, που είχε παντρευτεί αδερφή του Νίκου Φωτόπουλου, πέθανε πριν λίγα χρόνια.
Η μητέρα του πέθανε από πνευμονία όταν ήταν πολύ μικρός και τον μεγάλωσαν τα αδέρφια του.
Το φιλανθρωπικό του έργο είναι πολύ μεγάλο και περιγράφεται στο κείμενο.