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George S. Athanas, 78, passed away at his home in Chicago on Tuesday, November 6, 2012, from complications of a stroke he suffered last November.
Born on December 16, 1933, he leaves his wife of 27 years, Kathy; his sons, Steven, David, Peter and Michael; stepchildren, Aaron Swan (Becky), and Mary Kaye Joseph (Mike); nieces, Barbara Kay, Jennifer McGreal, and Angela Athanas; nephew, Matt Kay; 12 grandchildren; his former wife, Nancy, and many close friends. He was the son of the late Samuel and Sue Athanas (Tanner), and brother of the late Elaine Kay and Mark Athanas, and spent most of his growing-up years in Toledo, Ohio.
A DeVilbiss High School "Tiger" to the end, he graduated from there in 1950 and later from the University of Toledo, attaining a Masters Degree in Education. While attending high school and college, he spent many hours working in his father's restaurant, The Unique Grill, and also served in the U.S. Army.
George was blessed with a desire to succeed and a strong work ethic and tackled every job with gusto, including working on a turkey farm, selling sewing machines, cleaning gutters, and installing roofs. But his real break came in 1954 when his long-time friend Chuck Perdeau, tipped him off that The Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad in Toledo was hiring and thus began his illustrious 40-year career with what eventually became CSX Corporation.
Starting as a Locomotive Fireman in Walbridge Yard, Toledo, George quickly rose through the ranks, eventually becoming a top executive at their headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida. He was known amongst his railroad peers as 'The Golden Greek", and his affable personality, compassion, and fair yet firm management style won him the respect and admiration of employees at every level. He has been retired 18 years but is still fondly remembered as a true gentleman and a class act.
After retiring, George worked for three years as a Mediator for the Wood County Prosecutors Office in Bowling Green, Ohio, primarily focusing on high risk students and their families.
He was proud of his Greek heritage and embraced life, eventually settling with his wife Kathy in Chicago's Gold Coast area, surrounded by the things he loved most: great restaurants, a vibrant entertainment scene, beautiful parks, and an expansive lakefront for his daily morning walk.
In keeping with his wishes, there will be no funeral but as he expressed many times "Just give me a nice cocktail party with some good jazz and invite all of my friends." Presently, plans are being made to fulfill that wish in both Chicago and Toledo in the very near future.
Those who so desire may send a donation in his memory to Disabled American Veterans, P.O. Box 14301, Cincinnati, OH 45250-0301, Attn. Gift Processing.
Published in Toledo Blade on Nov. 13, 2012