We are here today to remember the life of Theodore Peter Tripolitis. All of us here today will remember him differently, as he achieved so much over the course of his 90 years.
He was the young son of Greek immigrants; a first generation American. His stubborn nature was apparent early in his life. After wearing a traditional Greek evzone (aka the white skirt soldier uniform) for a church event, Papou refused to face mockery and stares on the bus and instead decided make the five-mile walk home. Growing up during the Great Depression taught him the value of a dollar, the importance of hard work, and his love of baseball.
Some of you may remember him as a young writer and violinist who dreamed of going to college and joining a symphony, only to have those dreams dashed due to the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Some of you may remember him as a member of the 20th Armored Division in WWII, where as part of the Army Specialized Training Program he served among the best and the brightest of the greatest generation and fought for freedom overseas in France.
He was a husband for 67 years to Xanthula, whom he decided to marry after declaring her the most beautiful Greek girl in St. Louis upon their first meeting. Although she wasn’t originally as enthusiastic as he (she thought he was too skinny) she eventually agreed to marry him when he proposed on the Forest Park Streetcar uttering the words “I’m sick of riding this streetcar to see you; let’s get married.” It was with Xanthula that he gained another title, that of Father, to their daughter Elaine.
Many of you probably have memories of him in a more official capacity—As the founder and longtime owner of Hydra Sponge Company. My papou built this company from nothing, and I don’t think I exaggerate when I say that it was basically a sixth member of our family. Seven days a week, 365 days a year (yes, even on Christmas) he was at the factory. I remember Yiayia saying that if “Wheel of Fortune” ever went off the air he would never come home. But home he did come around 6:30 every day, much to the delight of his two granddaughters.
And it is as Papou that I will remember him. I am thankful he taught me how to play poker, how to whistle, how to tell a great joke and how to root for the St. Louis Cardinals. It is because of him that my family first went to Disney World and stayed at the Grand Floridian. It is from him that I received my writing and musical abilities, and, to my eternal chagrin, my nose. I hope that someday I shall achieve a modicum of what he was able to over his lifetime, and that I’m able to continue his legacy of humor and unfailing generosity.
Now, if you are very lucky, you are the proud owner of a signed copy of his book, “Thought-Provoking and Witty Witticisms from the pen of Ted Tripolitis.” My papou adored the English language and found such great joy in writing and sharing his writing with others, so I think it’s only fitting today to leave you with his own words that I think perfectly describe him: “A great man is not measured by his physical stature—but by the heights he reaches by his achievements!” Papou, you reached such great heights. I love you, and I hope there is a lot of ice cream and apple pie waiting for you in heaven.