FELOPULOS, Paul One of the heroes of the greatest air-sea rescue in maritime history passed away last Thursday in Cambridge from complications related to leukemia. He was 47 years old. Mr. Felopulos hasdjust graduated from high school, and was traveling with his mother aboard the M.S. Prinsendam in October 1980. As the ship steamed through the Gulf of Alaska on a scheduled month long voyage from Vancouver to Singapore, fire broke out in the engine room. Mr. Felopulos and his mother Carol were roused from their room and directed to join the other passengers on deck. By 6 am, an abandon ship order was issued and the 320 passengers and 200 crew members were evacuated into lifeboats and lowered to the sea. Mr. Felopulos, an experienced sailor found himself in a small lifeboat designed to accommodate 28 people, but overflowing with 50. With temperatures well below freezing and 25 foot waves pummeling the vessel and its passengers, the inexperienced captain of the lifeboat, a maitre d' from the ship's restaurant, began to panic and direct the craft into the path of the foundering ship. Recognizing that this maneuver would place his lifeboat in imminent danger, Mr. Felopulos assumed leadership and immediately directed those rowing to reverse direction. After enduring 13 hours of life threatening conditions, rescue helicopters began hoisting evacuees to safety one by one. The situation threatened to become chaotic when a number of unruly passengers in his lifeboat attempted to exit simultaneously. Mr. Felopulos again calmly assumed control and organized an orderly and safe evacuation. Amazingly, all 520 people were rescued before the burning hulk of the Prinsendam sank several days later. Paul Felopulos was born in Gloucester, MA in 1962. He attended Newton South high school, and graduated from Emerson College in 1989. Throughout his life Mr. Felopulos worked as a cabinetmaker; musician and fine artist, producing a formidable body of work. Mr. Felopulos also worked professionally as a screenwriter and collaborated on several screenplays for Hollywood studios, including the film Novocaine starring Steve Martin. "He was an artist to the very end", said his brother Peter. "More than anything, he truly loved his children." In addition to his brother Peter of Waban, Mr. Felopulos is survived by his three children, Theo, Chloe, and Phoebe, and their mother Gretchen, all of Natick, his mother Carol, sister Kim, niece Georgia, and nephew Cole, all of Fredricksburg, VA. A Funeral Mass was held in St. John the Evangelist Church, Wellesley Hills, Wednesday, May 26, 2010. Remembrances may be made in Paul's memory to the Durham Home, 65 Chilton St., Cambridge, MA 02138 Burke & Blackington Funeral Home 1-800-585-6939
Published in Boston Globe on May 30, 2010.