Senator Nicholas Chris Petris
February 25, 1923 - March 20, 2013
Resident of Oakland
Senator Nicholas C. Petris was born in Oakland the son of Greek immigrants, Chris and Mary Petris, on February 25, 1923. He passed away quietly on March 20, 2013 at Piedmont Gardens where he recently celebrated his 90th birthday.
Preceding him in death was Anna Vlahos his wife of over 60 years and his sister Katherine Koutoufas. Nicholas is survived by his brother Gus Petris and sister-in-law Marie; his sisters-in-law Maria and Penny and their sons Peter Sam and Lance; his nephews and nieces Kelly, Chris and Marina; his cousin and long term caretaker Noula Vlahakis and many godchildren, staff and extended loving friends and family.
Senator Petris was raised bi-lingual entering Kindergarten speaking mostly Greek. He learned quickly and graduated from McClymonds High School in 1940 where he had been elected President of his class and chosen Most Worthy Student. Nick went on to graduate from U.C. Berkeley. As a World War II Veteran in the Office of Strategic Services he spoke Japanese and was behind enemy lines. The Senator graduated from Stanford Law School in 1949 and was an attorney in Oakland.
Nicholas was always very active in the Greek Orthodox Church where he served as President of his Parish Council. In addition, Senator was a founding member of the Board of Trustees of the Oakland Museum of California. He was elected to the California State Assembly in 1959 and to the State Senate in 1967 retiring in 1996 due to term limits.
He was a man for all seasons…a renaissance man...a thinker and a doer.
He fought against the greed of the corporate world and wrote legislation supporting the average person, the workers, the elderly, the sick, the disadvantaged and those who couldn't help themselves. Never afraid of adversity or ridicule, he authored bills years before the issues were debated by the public. His staff called it the 'Petris Gap'. His legislation envisioned California to be a better place to live and work and raise a family. Often we would see bills fail and then succeed a decade later when his colleagues were ready for them.
For the first time in history, the University of California honored a legislator by establishing an endowed chair in Greek Classical Studies, which is presently supporting a full time faculty member in Greek Art History. In addition, $2 million was given for the Nicholas C. Petris Center on Health Care Markets and Consumer Welfare providing education on the changing health care system in California. Finally and in perpetuity, an annual U.C. Scholarship is being awarded to a worthy graduating senior at McClymonds High School.
Some think the 'C' in Nicholas C. Petris stands for Christos, but they would only be partially correct…For those of us who knew and worked with him in the Legislature - the 'C' stood for much more: Consequence, Controversy, Combative, Compassion, Commitment, Courage, Community.
But if there is one word to describe this man and his works over almost 40 years it has to be Love…a great statesman living among us whose thoughtfulness, honesty and goodness drew us all to him on both sides of the aisle and in the community at large.
There should be more like him today…he will be truly missed.
In lieu of flowers memorial contributions are preferred to the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension Senator Petris Greek Language and Cultural Fund or the U. C. Regents as a gift to the Petris Center in the School of Public Health at U.C. Berkeley. Family and friends are invited to attend Trisagion Services Monday March 25, 2013 at 7:00 PM (reception following) and Funeral Services Tuesday March 26, 2013 at 11:00 AM, both services will be held at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension, 4700 Lincoln Ave., Oakland. Nick will be laid to rest next to his beloved wife Anna at Mt. View Cemetery in Oakland. Following the interment everyone is invited and encouraged to return to the Ascension Cathedral for the Makaria memorial luncheon. For further information please call: Harry W. Greer, Funeral Director (FDR-745).
Published in Inside Bay Area on Mar. 23, 2013