Not long after Demetrius Papageorge’s 100th birthday, a friend asked the centenarian for his take on old age.
“The friend said, ‘I find it really takes a sense of humor,’” said Papageorge’s daughter, Maria Artemis, of Atlanta. “But my father said, ‘I don’t worry about it very much. I have friends on both sides.’”
When asked on another occasion for his thoughts on the afterlife, Papageorge, the son of a Greek Orthodox priest, simply said, “I have no idea what is going to happen. No one has ever come back to tell me about it,” his daughter recalled.
His was the kind of wisdom that came with a century of living, she said.
Only weeks before his 101st birthday, Demetrius Thomas Papageorge of Decatur died at Hospice Atlanta, after a brief period of declining health.
A funeral is planned for 11 a.m. on Friday at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, Atlanta. Burial will follow at Arlington Memorial Park in Sandy Springs. H.M. Patterson & Son, Spring Hill Chapel, is in charge of arrangements.
Born in New Jersey but reared in Atlanta, Papageorge understood the value of education early in life. His father, Thomas Papageorge, who is believed to be the first priest assigned to Saint Paul Greek Orthodox Church in Savannah and to Holy Trinity Church of Augusta, died when he was 14. Before the elder Papageorge died, he told the elder of his seven children to make sure they went to college and that their younger siblings did the same, said his youngest daughter, Lainey Papageorge.
After graduating from Boys High in 1931, he went to work with an older brother for what is now the Georgia Department of Transportation.
“He told me much later in life that he would have loved to be a doctor, but knew he couldn’t afford it,” Artemis said. “But he found he was quite good at engineering.”
“But he knew he needed to go to school to learn more,” added her sister, Lainey Papageorge, of Atlanta and New York.
Papageorge graduated from Georgia Tech in 1936, where he was also in the Army ROTC, with a degree in civil engineering, his daughters said. He continued to work with his brother, until he was called into service in 1941.
After World War II, he took a job at Lockheed Martin in 1951, working on the C-5A and the C-141 aircraft before retiring in 1977, his daughters said.
Before military service, Papageorge had plans to marry Irene Phrydas, a physician. They set a date for February 1942, but with the uncertainty of war, they married in December 1941. Papageorge and his wife raised two daughters together and were married for more than 47 years when she died in 1989. A couple of years after her death, he married Chrysanthe Demetry and they enjoyed more than 16 years together before she died in 2008.
Papageorge’s daughters say their father’s life was not only inspiring to them, but to others as well.
“He was gifted with a physical body that was strong,” Lainey Papageorge said. “It carried him through a remarkably long life.”
In addition to his daughters, Papageorge is survived by his brother, John Papageorge of Atlanta; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
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