CHESTERFIELD - John Chakalos, 87, of Chesterfield, beloved husband of the late Rita B. Chakalos, passed away unexpectedly at his home in Windsor, Conn., on Dec. 20, 2013.
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John was born June 29, 1926, in Keene, the only son in a family of five daughters, to the late Charles "Costas" and Kalliope (Kyriazis) Chakalos. John enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private, where he served with distinction as a paratrooper in the Philippines during World War II and participated in numerous high-risk missions. He was a graduate of the Bradford Durfee College of Technology, where he received a B.S. in textile engineering in 1951. During his high school years in Middletown, Conn., John met his sweetheart Rita Baranowski. The two were married for 59 years, until Rita lost her battle with cancer on Nov. 21, 2013.
John dedicated his life to his marriage, work and community, and above all, family. His favorite motto was "without family you've got nothing; family is everything." He showered his grandchildren, nieces and nephews with paternal love. John was a proud, hard-working man, and with his determination and work ethic he built a beautiful life for his family. A self-made man, John proudly worked full time as a real estate developer until the day of his passing. He never slowed down, always exhibiting a larger-than-life personality. Behind a strong-willed business demeanor, however, lay a heart of gold. John and Rita felt an obligation to give to those who were less fortunate, especially the children and the town of Chesterfield, where he resided for the past 20 years. Despite his personal and professional successes, John carried a special humility and compassion, always reaching out to those in need - often anonymously. John, who was baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church, extended his generosity to the church throughout his life
He will be remembered by thousands for his acts of kindness and generosity. Every Christmas for the last decade John and Rita have opened their home in New Hampshire to the public to view his extraordinary display of lights. Christmas was John's favorite holiday, as he loved spending time with his family and wanted to extend that joy to others. Donations made at the entrance went to the local food pantry.
His life is a living testament to the American Dream: Through hard work, family values and a lifelong marriage, John achieved what we all aspire to become. He will be greatly missed but never forgotten.
He leaves behind his daughters, Elaine J. Chakalos of West Hartford, Conn., Linda Carman of Middletown, Conn., Charlene Gallagher of Hampstead, N.C., Valerie Santilli and her husband, Lawrence, of West Hartford, Conn.; his grandchildren, Haley and Colin Massie, Nathan Carman, Nash and Colton Gallagher, Zoe and Christian Santilli; his step-grandchildren, "Little" Larry Santilli and Krista Santilli; his sister, Vivian Nikkanen and her husband, Pentti; his brother-in-law, Greg Contas; his sister-in-law, Dorothy Oszurek; as well as many beloved nieces, nephews and friends. In addition to his wife and parents John was predeceased by his sisters, Helen Chakalos, Vasiliki "Kiki" LaPenna, Julia Burkhart, Georgia Contas and his brother-in-law Nicholas LaPenna.
services: Family and friends may gather on Monday, Dec. 30, 10 a.m. at the Carmon Windsor Funeral Home, 807 Bloomfield Ave., Windsor, Conn., followed by a funeral service, 11 a.m. at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Hartford, Conn. Interment will follow in Cedar Hill Cemetery, Hartford, Conn. John's family will receive friends on Sunday, Dec. 29, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the funeral home. A Trisagio Service will be held at 6 p.m. Donations in John's memory may be made to the John and Rita B. Chakalos Fund for the Children of Chesterfield, c/o Paul Sterczala, 4 Corporate Drive, Suite 488, Shelton Conn. 06484. For online condolences, visit www.carmonfuneralhome.com.
Published in Union Leader on Dec. 29, 2013