As a young man, he studied veterinary medicine and agriculture in Athens, always with an eye towards applying these skills in his beloved home of Kastri. But World War II intervened in 1940, and turned upside down the plans and lives of most of the world, including his.
During the German occupation of Greece, the U.S. Armys OSS unit parachuted specially trained Greek-American officers into Greece for special operations. Greanias met and helped some of these commandos. He also saved the only Jewish family of Kastri from the Holocaust, hiding them in mountain caves.
During the tragic Greek Civil War, which began even before the German Army left in 1944, and lasted until 1949, Greanias was a leader of pro-government sentiment, and therefore marked for the terrorism of the times. Twice captured by Communist forces neighbors and friends he was twice set to be executed, but escaped both times.
In 1951, Greanias married Ekaterini Diamantopoulou, and two months later they immigrated to Decatur, joining the large clan of Greaniases already there, including his father. John immediately entered the family restaurant enterprises principally the fabled Lincoln Square Cafe, which John and his cousin Nick Greanias bought from the older generation in 1954.
During the 1950s, planning to return soon to Kastri, Greanias quietly bought many of the prime parcels of land especially springs on the mountain of his rugged Greek village home. But in 1960, in one of the biggest fires in Decatur history, the northwest corner of Lincoln Square burned to the ground, and in that fire also went up dreams of returning to Greece.
From 1960 to 1976, Greanias owned and operated the Plaza Terrace Restaurant in Fairview Plaza, and from 1977 until his retirement in 1983, Johns Sun-Down Restaurant.
His beloved wife died in 1987, whereupon the third act of Greanias life began, as part of a family of American diplomats. For the next 17 years, he spent several months each year in Kastri, often flying there directly from his sons diplomatic postings of Toronto or Bucharest or Washington, until finally, in 2003, the family was assigned to Athens.
Meanwhile, Greanias kept Decatur as his permanent home, returning every year for several months, and making extended visits to his daughters home in Tennessee as well. Having fallen ill during his last stay in Greece, he spent the last months of his life in Decaturs Aspen Ridge Care Center. His family will always be grateful to his friends at Aspen Ridge, who became a loving second family.
Greanias was several times president of the Parish Council of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church of Decatur, and a longtime member of the Order of AHEPA, the Pan Arcadian Federation of American, and the St. George Society of Kastritans.
Greanias read voraciously, and enjoyed hiking and mountain-climbing, which he was blessed to be able to do until age 89. He particularly liked walking in the autumn through the streets and parks of Decaturs stunning fall foliage. And largely because of suffering through the great famine in Greece throughout the 1940s, when huge numbers of people literally starved, he loved feeding people. Legions of people called him the finest chef they knew.
He regularly cooked for large multitudes to the end of his life, often at church. At age 85, he cooked the traditional Agape (Love) meal for the funeral of this cousin Mary Anne Greanias. On the day of Johns recent death, a Catholic priest who had attended Mary Annes funeral wrote the family: I hope at his funeral dinner someone does him proud and makes his fish recipe, the best I ever ate!
Everyone who ever knew John Greanias remembers him for his character, integrity, self-discipline, fierce independence, contentment, and love of his family and his two homes Kastri and Decatur. He will be remembered by many as a hero whom history never knew.
John Greanias is survived by his son and daughter-in-law Nicholas J. and Mary Greanias and their sons Johnny and Teddy, currently of Auckland, New Zealand; his daughter and son-in-law Vicky and Dr. Michael Mena of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and their children Katy, Alexia, and John-Michael; his brother Constantine of Athens, Greece; Kosta Kolovadis of Decatur, who was like another son to him; and a large number of nephews, nieces, and cousins from all around the world. Besides his wife, he was preceded in death by his son Chris J. Greanias, and his sister Diamando Georgoules.
Visitation will be 5 to 8 P.M., Monday, December 8, 2008, at Brintlinger & Earl Funeral Home, Decatur, IL. Services will be 12:00 P.M., Tuesday, December 9, 2008, at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Decatur, IL. Interment will be in Fairlawn Cemetery, Decatur, IL. The family asks that, in lieu of flowers or any other remembrance, donations be made to the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church of Decatur.
Born: January 17, 1916
Death: December 2, 2008
This memorial provided by:
Brintlinger and Earl Funeral Home