2009-07-15 / Features

Kyrkostas, 86, WWII Veteran

BY CATHERINE TSOUNIS

Staff Sergeant Gus Kyrkostas in WWII uniform. Staff Sergeant Gus Kyrkostas in WWII uniform. "My father was called Kyrie Kosta, Mr. Kostas, as a sign of respect in Smyrna, Asia Minor. This is the root of our name Kyrkostas," explained Gus Kyrkostas to me at a family party.

A "host of hosts", Gus and his wife Julie, had legendary parties in their Long Island East Marion Home. His smile and generosity is well known. A positive thinker with an unique sense of humor, he would help anyone in need.

Kyrkostas of East Marion, New York and Boca Raton, Florida, passed away at the age of 86 at St. Francis Hospital, surrounded by his wife, Julie and children. His wake was held at Commack Abbey, Long Island on July 8. 2009. The funeral service was at St. Paraskevi Greek Orthodox Church in Greenlawn, Long Island and interment at Pinelawn National Cemetery with military honors.

The son of immigrants from Greek Ionia, Asia Minor he grew up in New York City during the Great Depression in 1932.

Gus came from two generations of American veterans from two World Wars. Gus Kyrkostas served in the Air Force during WWII. He was an instructor of remote control gunnery for the B29 bomber airplane in the 20th Air Force of the Pacific Theater. His father, Vasilios, the son of tobacco growers from Smyrna (modern Izmir), Turkey served the United States Army in WWI.

Gus graduated from the City College of New York in 1955. During the 1950s, Gus married his wife Julie and had four children: Billy, Elaine, Maria and Sandy. He started a newspaper business that served the New York Metropolitan area from Queens. Gus was active in community service in the community of Queens and Long Island for some 50 years.

Gus Kyrkostas, a founder of St. Demetrios Greek Parochial School in Astoria, the Transfiguration of Christ Greek Orthodox Church in Mattituck, and the Greek American Homeowners Association of the East End of Long Island (HATCAST) was installed into the Order of St. Andrew/Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople on Sunday, March 9, 2004 at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in New York City. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios presided over the investiture of this ancient order which can be traced back to the Byzantine era. Archon, "Defender of the Faith", is the highest honor bestowed upon a member of the Greek Orthodox faith.

He helped shape St. Demetrios Greek American Parochial School of Astoria in the 1950s and played an active role as founder of the New York AHEPA chapter where he served as president of the William Kyrkostas Chapter No. 475 of AHEPA until it united with the Hermes AHEPA chapter in Astoria.

As patriarch of a Greek American family, he upheld the values of his culture and passed them on to his children.

Gus was sensitive to the problems of others. With his wife Julie, he would visit people in crisis, giving them encouragement to move ahead. Loyalty and kindness is a Kyrkostas family trait.

The passing of a unique person who survived the Great Depression, WWII and became a builder of Greek Orthodox churches and societies will be remembered. Kyrkostas' exceptional accomplishments are his legacy to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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