85 years well lived as a Washingtonian|
Early morning on Monday, July 1, 2013, Vaseleos ""Billie"" Colevas passed quietly in Fort Washington, MD surrounded by his loved ones.
Born September 13, 1927 at 711 8th St. SE, Washington, DC, Billie was the proud son of Greek immigrant parents (Speros Colevas and Helen Argerakis Colevas) who immigrated in 1909 from the village of Sellasia, Greece near Sparti.
The many stories of ""Billie"" as a youngster seemed to qualify him as a member of, ""Our Gang!"" Was there a mischievous, smart, and entrepreneurial kid in that group? Well, if there was, it could have been Billie in knickers and cap!
From the time Billie was six or seven, he knew how to make a dollar (or at least few nickels) to buy a Little Tavern Hamburger. He ran errands, shelled peas, sorted tomatoes and hand-dipped chocolates, which he delivered every Thursday to the White House. As soon as he was old enough, he entered the real world of finance-delivering newspapers. Living at 711 8th St., he was right across from the Marine Barracks. The Marines soon became his best customers-tipping him 2-cents for every 3-cent newspaper! They liked him; he was their pet! He had a bunk in the barracks, and most of the time joined them for breakfast before rushing off to Wallach Elementary, and later Hine Jr. High School. Billie loved the Marine Corps, and knew that one day he'd join that proud group.
The newspaper delivery business also included the Navy Yard. One early morning, as always, he tossed a rolled up newspaper onto the President's yacht. A voice came back saying, 'Hey kid, have you had breakfast?"" ""No Sir"" was the paperboy's reply. ""Well, kid, today you're eating with me! ""said President F.D.R.-and he did! This was Billie's favorite story!
Other adventures of those early years revolved around the Southeast Washington Boy's Club, where he played basketball and football. Billie also boxed at the smokers boxer held on the top floor of the Willard Hotel! He went to the club's camp each summer on the Chesapeake Bay. As usual, he was a helpful, pleasant kid, and ended up staying much longer than the one-week allotted.
After World War II broke out, Billie couldn't wait to become a Marine. He enlisted at age 17 and was eventually shipped to North China. Talk about adventures there! He retained his financial skills and knew how to make an extra buck or two. This extra money was dutifully sent home to his parents. He also retained his ingratiating skills, and it wasn't long before the Colonel in charge made Billie his assistant. The two of them flew helicopters all over North China to inspect and audit what Billie called, ""the slop shoots."" In case you didn't know, that means, ""bars."" The Colonel would disappear, and Billie was left alone auditing posts with as few as 20 men. This made no sense! The young auditor finally put two and two together (he was always good at math!). The Colonel was an OSS (precursor to the CIA) officer and was off each day to do the secret work those guys did.
After his honorable discharge as a Staff Sergeant from the Marine Corps in 1949, Billie had all kinds of jobs. He collected bad debts, sold awnings, clerked in the library on 7th and NY Avenue, and worked in Roacher's Drug Store right back on 8th street! He even went to Strayer College, where he graduated first in his class, to improve his already good business skills. During this time he served in the US Marine Corps Reserves. Finally he found his niche. He began working for Arundel Supply Company, which soon became Arundel Asphalt Products Inc.
Affectionately referred to as ""The Greek,"" Billie became a well known and respected businessman. During the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, was President of Arundel Asphalt Products Inc., a Forestville Maryland based manufacturer of hot mix asphalt. He spearheaded the growth of what eventually became one of the largest producers of hot mix asphalt in the state of Maryland, with asphalt plants located in Landover, Waldorf, and Hollywood. It has been said by many people that there wasn't a road, highway, or parking lot in Washington, DC, Central or Southern Maryland that didn't have ""Billie's ""signature on it. These included the paving of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in the 1960""s; the paving of the Capital Center for Abe Pollin in the early 1970's; and the paving of routes 2 and 4 to Solomon's Island and Route 301 to the Harry Nice Bridge in the 1980's.
Billie was a life-long Redskin season ticket holder. He followed them from Griffin Stadium to RFK stadium and to Fed Ex Field. With family and friends, he attended every Super Bowl in which the Redskins played.
Billie has always been devoted to his family, friends, and the Greek Orthodox Church. His generosity has been without bounds to the church. He was also a major contributor to the building of the chapel at Camp David. In 1991 he was made an Archon of the Greek Orthodox Church in a ceremony at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC by the then Archbishop Iakovas.
Billie is the American Dream personified. No one gave him anything. He rose to the top by skill, hard work, and treating people right. Billie was married to Helen Fontana Colevas from 1958 to 1981, and had two children Andrew and Andrea. Andrew has continued in his father's entrepreneurial footsteps. Andrea has three children and is a nurse director at Children's National Medical Center in Washington DC.
Twenty –seven years ago, he met the love of his life, Rita Cameron. They traveled every corner of the world together and were eventually married. Billie will be sorely missed by all who knew him.
During his life Billie belonged to the following organizations: Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral; Leadership 100; Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate; Member of Archdiocesan Council of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan of North and South America; President of Maryland Asphalt Association; Director National Asphalt Paving Association; Member Suburban Maryland Building Association; Member Associated Builders and Contractors; Member Maryland Terrapin Club; Member Navy Lodge #4 Washington DC; Member China Marine Association; Member Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Waldorf Lodge 2421; Member Prince Georges County Chamber of Commerce; Member Maryland Chamber of Commerce; and original founding member of the Bank of Bowie.
He is survived by his present wife, first wife, his two children, and three grandchildren (Anastasia, Christian, and Eleni), his daughter-in-law, Yasmeen H. Colevas and son-in-law Wayne C. Brown, two sisters Cleo Patra Hangemanole and Jane Glakas (Nick) brother, Prokopes Colevas(Patty), as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
Friends and relatives will be received at Lee Funeral Home in Clinton, MD on Sunday, July 7th from 2-4pm and 6-8pm. Funeral Services will be held at Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral on Monday July 8th at 11am. Interment will be held at Resurrection Cemetery in Clinton, MD with continued celebration of Billie's life at Mount Airy Mansion in Rosaryville, MD.
Published in Washington Times on July 5, 2013