In praise of Uncle Chris - Mr. Ed [19:48:36 11/30/14]
I received word this weekend that my uncle Chris had passed. It put a damper on my entire Michigan weekend, and now with the news of Kosta Karageorge, it is a sad time for me. I've posted part of Uncle Chris' obit below, something I normally wouldn't do on this board, but I thought those of you who frequent this board would appreciate the scope of his war-time and post-war service.
Uncle Chris used to tell us stories about his imprisonment in what amounted to a concentration camp. He was never overly-graphic, but he was detailed enough to make us all understand just how horrible it was. He told of being singled out for special torture because the Nazis believed he had sensitive intelligence. They would from time to time bind his hands and feet, take him out in front of all the other prisoners, and put a gun to his head. Then they would pull the trigger. They never killed him (obviously), probably because they thought he had information they needed. They did routinely execute other prisoners that way, so Chris never knew when there might really be a bullet in the chamber. It must have been awful. I also remember seeing the scars on his back, bayonet scars that he earned while standing up to Germans while imprisoned.
After being liberated, he went back to Europe and worked to bring his former tormentors to justice. He was successful at that and was very proud of that.
He always told us that the best revenge was for him to come back home and have a successful life while his tormentors were either in prisons or in caskets. He did just that, building a strong family and a super-successful business that he started literally with nothing.
One of my favorite stories about him was an incident in which thieves were coming to one of his construction sites at night and stealing his lumber. He tried to get police help, to no avail, so Chris camped out there at night, packing the obligatory "heat", and single-handedly apprehended the thieves. He also kicked a couple of their asses before calling the police.
For that, the police tried to charge him with assault and carrying a weapon illegally. They offered him a "deal" on the charge but he told the D.A. to go screw himself and demanded a Grand Jury hearing. He got it, and the Grand Jury refused to indict him for protecting his own property.
He was truly a man of courage who took no crap and stood up for the things in which he believed. Tomorrow I will travel to Toledo for his funeral knowing the world is a better place for him having been amongst us, and the world is a poorer place now that he is gone.
Chris G. Zervos, 93, a prominent custom homebuilder and land developer, passed away November 26, 2014, surrounded by his wife of 69 years, Cleo, and his family. Mr. Zervos was born in Toledo, March 28, 1921, the youngest of six children of George and Stratigoula Zervos. He was a 1938 graduate of Waite High School where he lettered in football and wrestling. He was, for a time, a semi-pro boxer and wrestler before enlisting in the Army Air Corps 13 months before Pearl Harbor.
Mr. Zervos graduated Officer Cadet School after serving two years in the Panama Canal Zone and was awarded his pilot's wings. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant. As a B-24 Liberator bomber pilot, he flew missions from North Africa and Italy, joining the 376th Bomb Group, 515 Bomb Squadron, the oldest air wing in the European theatre of World War II. After successful missions, his plane was severely damaged over the Ploesti, Romania oil fields. Forced to abandon his plane, he and his crew became prisoners of war in Bulgaria on August 10, 1944. Upon his release, he joined the OSS, the forerunner of the CIA, returned to Bulgaria to assist in war crimes trials against those who had committed atrocities against the POWs. He was awarded the Purple Heart, Air Medal, Presidential Unit Citation with cluster, American Defense Service medal European-African-Middle Eastern Service medal, American Campaign Service medal and the Prisoner of War medal.
Upon his return from Europe, Mr. Zervos married Cleo Porentas, February 11, 1945. He completed his tour of duty stateside. He purchased and operated the Delite Night Club at Central and Detroit Aves with brother-in-law, George Stratos. In 1956, he joined Stone & Swartzbaugh, a home improvement and remodeling company. In 1957, he formed Mid-City Builders, a general contracting company. In 1972, he was joined in business by his son, Chris. Together they established Chris Zervos Builders, Inc. a home building company specializing in up-scale homes. Expanding into land development, they developed Christopher Woods and Hunter's Green. Mr. Zervos developed Timber Ridge Estates, the site of the 1993 Parade of Homes, before his retirement in 1996.