1914 - January 15, 2008
George John Raftopoulos, 93, died at 9:36 a.m. Jan. 15, 2008, at The Memorial Hospital in Craig after suffering an apparent heart attack in his home an hour before.
George was born at 9 a.m. June 4, 1914, in Kaloscope, Gravias, Greece, a small village in the northern mountains of Greece. He was the third born to John Zacharias Raftopoulos and Anastasia Kotchikis Raftopoulos. Other siblings included Angeleke born in 1910, Zacharias born in 1912, and Konstandina born in 1917.
George's father, John, was a very industrious, enterprising, hardworking man. He insisted his sons get a good education.
To better educate his sons, John sent them to the larger town of Souvala, about 20 miles away. George was 11 years old at the time and in the fourth grade. Zacharias was 13 and in the sixth grade. It was very difficult for George to be away from his mother at such a young age, but he endured and after two years moved to another town, Amphesa, where he graduated from high school as the top student in his class.
Upon returning to the village after graduating from high school, George was placed in charge of the sheep herd by his father. His father owned 250 sheep that were milked two times daily and grazed in the mountains. The milk was made into cheese.
George worked with his father for three years and then at 21 was called for military duty in September 1935 and was soon promoted to first lieutenant.
In 1938, he was discharged and placed in military reserve. He accepted a job in the Greek Custom House. While working at customs, George applied to the University of Athens. Enrollment was limited to 1,000 students and was based on the score earned on the entrance examination. George earned the 10th highest score of the several thousand who applied that year. He worked at the Custom House and attended the university.
In 1941, he earned his law degree and was promoted two levels in the Greek Custom House. The next year, Italy invaded Greece, and George was called to the front line on the Greco-Albanian boundary in northern Greece. While in battle he was shot in the right shoulder and leg. He was awarded the Purple Heart and later returned to battle the Germans after the Italian forces were unable to conquer Greece.
After the wars ended, George once again went back to work at the Greek Custom House. While on duty at customs in December 1945, three gentlemen from Craig passed through his check station. Their names were Harry Kourlis, Gus Charchalis and John Photos. These men had been in the U.S. for several years and were in search of Greek brides. George knew a young woman from his village who had moved to Craig. Her name was Georgia Vlahos; she left the village as a young bride in 1934 and was married to Steve Simos. The three gentlemen knew the young woman and her family well.
In 1949, he got word of the death of Steve Simos in 1948 in the United States and the widowing of Georgia. They began to communicate and in the spring of 1950, Georgia came back to Greece to get reacquainted with George.
They were married Dec. 16, 1950, in Athens. They returned to the United States in the spring of 1951. Georgia was reunited with her children, Connie and Jimmy, from her previous marriage with Steve Simos.
After a year in the U.S. it was decided to continue to grow the ranching operation that Georgia had helped build with her deceased husband, Steve.
On Feb. 18, 1952, their first son, John, was born and on March 11, 1953, a second son, Steve, was born. George always thought and talked about Greece, and his brother and sisters and other cousins and relatives. He loved his native country.
George's other loves were his wife and the sheep business.
His wife was his beautiful, strong-willed, hard-working bride of 57 years. She had tremendous commitment to her family, friends and business. They worked and traveled together.
In their later years, when they were more restricted physically and needed care, their love was even more obvious. When Georgia died April 15, 2007, George was heartbroken. He never recovered from this loss and called out her name frequently until his death.
George loved the sheep business. Whenever any sheep were lost, he would usually look and look until they were found. In his later years he was well known for his driving skills or lack thereof, as he often would drive on the center stripe as he traveled to and from the ranch with supplies or on patrol in his red and white Ford PU. Many people knew his truck and made way for it when they saw him coming. He enjoyed being at the lambing shed in the spring and spent many hours there, even in his later years.
He was a kind, sensitive, gentle, well-mannered man. Always greeting his family with a smile and a kiss, and in his later years when asked how he was doing, would answer with "still alive."
He enjoyed reading, especially the Greek newspaper. He knew the power of education and expected his children and grandchildren to do well in school. He was always ready with words of wisdom or a story from life in the "old country" or a war story. When asked what his secret for long life was, he said, "conservative living or as the ancient Greeks would say, everything in moderation".
His mother and father, Anastasia and John, sisters Angeleke and Konstandena, and his wife, Georgia, preceded George in death.
George is survived by his brother, Zacharias, age 95, and his wife, Voula, of Athens, Greece; sons John (Marianna) Raftopoulos of Craig, and Steve (Antonia) Raftopoulos of Craig; daughter Connie (Chris) Jouflas, of Grand Junction, and son James (Pam) Simos of Craig. Grandchildren include: Georgie John Raftopoulos of Craig, Mari Katherine Raftopoulos of Craig, Angelo Raftopoulos of Craig, Alexis Raftopoulos of Phoenix, Ariz.,, Jorgiea Raftopoulos of Craig, Andrew Raftopoulos of Craig, Zacharias Raftopoulos of Craig, Denise (Carl) Jouflas Lipp of Wolcott, Peter (Kristy) Jouflas of Grand Junction, Steve (Carrie) Jouflas of Arvada, Georgann (Bill) Shanahan of Grand Junction; Steve (Elaina) Simos of Salt Lake City, Utah, Sam (Peggy) Simos of Naperville, Ill., Greg (Beth) Simos of Richmond, Va., and James Simos II of Oakland, Calif., and many great-grandchildren.
The Trisagion services were Sunday at Grant Mortuary.
A funeral was Monday at St. John's Greek Orthodox Church, 691 Green St., in Craig.
Officiating was Archimandrite Makarios Mannos of Salt Lake City, Utah
A memorial dinner followed at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion.
Donations may be made to the St. John's Greek Orthodox Church in care of Grant Mortuary.