This virtual fundraiser is to honor the service and dedication of Dr. John G. Demakis.
When Dr. John Demakis learned that he had a fast-growing inoperable brain tumor, he lamented, “But I still want to help people!” His children assured him that help people, he did, all his life, with his wife of 54 years, Katherine (Spiropoulos) at his side. A lifelong humanitarian, his was a life embodied by selfless philanthropy, Christian love, compassion, and joyful service to others until he died. Among his last words to his children were “I love you, I am going to miss, you have given me so much joy.”
John was born in 1938 in Chicago, Illinois to George and Marina Demakis, proud immigrants from the village of Sellasia, near Sparta Greece. His parents instilled in him a love of the Chicago Cubs, an infectious sweet tooth developed at the family candy store, and a desire to serve the Greek Orthodox Church. As a young man, he led the altar boys and youth groups and sang in the choir. Choir was where he met Katherine, whose backward glances he mistook for flirtation when he invariably sang off key. (Truth be told, John “helped people” more when he left the choir and poured his musical interests into a love of opera and playing his piano at home; he played daily until the last weeks of his life.) He also was the Patriarch’s Youth Delegate at the World Council of Churches in New Delhi, India in 1961. As an adult, he served on parish councils, taught Sunday school and adult catechism, and championed Orthodox Christian Missions. His health precluded him from making trips himself, so he served tirelessly on the home front to support missionaries’ efforts, working locally and nationally with the Orthodox Christian Mission Center as a long-time board member and as a founding member of the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion, and inspiring others to do the same. Most recently, he took a leadership role in local homeless shelter and a pro bono health clinic. Throughout each endeavor, he inspired others to serve.
John’s profession was also one of helping people, taking care of the veterans of the United States military at Hines VA Hospital as a cardiologist. He also was a long-time Professor of Medicine at Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine. He then went on to help the VA hospitals improve the quality of their care and to run more efficiently, ultimately retiring as National Director of Health Services Research & Development at the VA Headquarters in Washington, DC. John was also actively involved in the Hellenic Medical Society of Illinois and spent many years as its Scholarship Chairperson.
When not working, John loved to travel. With a lifetime of reading widely, he would guide his family on various adventures through the United States and abroad, often speaking with such authority and enthusiasm that random tourists would follow along. When he got home, he would share his trips with others, including threats throughout the years to show family his infamous “slides from India.” He also published a guide for pilgrims travelling to the monasteries of Mount Athos.
John is survived by this wife of 54 years, Katherine (Spiropoulos) and their three children, George (Maria) Demakis, Spyro (Fay) Demakis, and Marina (Thanos) Zuppas, and their six grandchildren: Michael, John, Kate, Lea, Evie, and Niko.