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George Demetrakopoulos

January 15, 1942 - March 27, 2021

Cremation has taken place in accordance with Yorgo’s wishes. A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date.

With profound sadness, we announce George H. “Yorgo” Demetrakopoulos, age 79, passed away peacefully Saturday, March 27, 2021.

 

Yorgo is survived by his wife Kelly, children, Harvey (Sharon), Ana, Natasha, Thea, Dimitri (Iris), and Yorgos (Susan) and his grandchildren, Anton and Olivia. He is also survived by sisters, Maria and Ekaterini, brother, Themi and numerous nieces and nephews. Yorgo was preceded in death by his parents, Haralambos and Anna Demetrakopoulos.

 

Born in Kokkino Phocis (Loutsovo), Greece on January 15, 1942. At age 10, as his father had been killed in a war, he was sent to America to work and support his family.

 

Yorgo earned a Bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and a Master’s degree from the University of Illinois, culminating in a published book. In 1964, Yorgo attained a teaching position in the Social Science department with Illinois State University. In 1965, he moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan and joined the History Department faculty at Western Michigan University. In 1970, he became Assistant Director of the Medieval Institute. Under the guidance of Yorgo, a small, bi-annual event became the largest, annual Medieval Conference in the world. In 1978, he became Assistant to the Dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, overseeing academic advising, developing programs and policies. In addition, Yorgo initiated several programs for minority students and the development of the Kimon Bournazos Award. Yorgo received Western Michigan University’s “Distinguished Service Award” in 1999. A colleague wrote in nominating him, “During his years at the University, he has affected the lives of thousands of students. The students were always given the benefit of the doubt.” Yorgo retired from WMU in 2000.

 

Yorgo was an avid traveler and collector of art, books, antiquities, and folklore of cultures from around the world. In 2019, Yorgo curated a collection of Buddhist art “Faces of Buddhism” shown at the Art Center of Battle Creek. Each and every piece was researched and selected with thoughtful intention. Those who visited the exhibit were all surprised and delighted that Yorgo was 100% hands-on throughout the showing. Anyone that visited his home was given a tour and an amazing history lesson on any one of many museum-worthy treasures. He was passionate about the outdoors and enjoyed hiking through his woods, hunting deer and turkey or tending to his herd of goats or European deer.

 

After retiring, he first purchased a home in Tolofona, Greece. Finding the village too noisy (specifically the roosters and donkeys), he built a mountain-side home up from the village. He enjoyed the beautiful vistas in quiet peace.

 

Over his 79 years, Yorgo touched many lives, whether serving as a mentor for students or that familiar face at the South Haven docks, known as the “old man on the boat”. His family and friends will miss the scent of pipe smoke that always surrounded him, the click of his amber worry beads in his hand and the stories he loved to share.