John Demetrius, 69: ‘Patriarch of Atlanta's Jamaican community'

When Jamaicans wanted to hear vintage tunes from home, they could always turn to John Demetrius.

For the past 40 years, the Marietta resident had amassed a massive collection of vinyl albums and singles. Some CDs, too, but mostly original recordings by original artists. He had a little bit of everything -- mento, ska, reggae, dance hall, jazz and calypso. He swapped with other collectors and bid in online auctions.

"As Jamaicans came to Atlanta, they would hear about his collection, which is in the thousands," said Dr. Beverley Demetrius, his wife of 35 years. "He would throw small parties -- called sit-ins -- with plenty of food and music. People would come in and out. Fortunately, we've always had big lawns around our house. He was a patriarch of  Atlanta's Jamaican community."

In May, John McKellar Demetrius was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He died on Aug. 5  from complications of the disease at Altus Hospice in Sandy Springs. He was 69. A funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta. Carmichael Funeral Home in Marietta is in charge of arrangements.

Mr. Demetrius was born in Spanish Town, Jamaica. He and his wife, a nutritionist and associate professor at Life University, moved from Mandeville, Jamaica, to Atlanta in the late 1970s, part of the early wave of Jamaicans to arrive in the city.

At the time, Mr. Demetrius was a salesman for Kem Chemical Co., which was headquartered here. The couple arrived in the metropolis not knowing a soul. They made Marietta their home.

Mr. Demetrius was a top salesman because of his engaging personality, his wife said. He could talk about sports, fishing, hunting and, of course, music.

"He stood 6-4 and never lost his Jamaican accent," she said. "Selling was not a problem because he was just that engaging. Good was not the word for him."

Eventually, the music lover left Kem Chemical and founded three businesses: Demco Chemical Co. Inc. sells cleaning chemicals and recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. Demco Properties, a real estate firm, buys and manages properties in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina. And Demco Systems Inc. cleans sidewalks and pavement at industrial sites.

With such a varied music collection, it was hard to pinpoint Mr. Demetrius' favorite artists or styles.

"He was just a connoisseur of all types of music," said a niece, Christine Stanley of College Station, Texas. "His collection was just awesome."

Additional survivors include five sons, Mark Demetrius of Marietta, Patrick Demetrius of Atlanta, Shaun Demetrius of  St. Catherine, Jamaica, Paul Demetrius of Villa Rica and Andre Demetrius of Smyrna; two daughters, Shalene Demetrius of Roswell and Marissa Demetrius of Marietta; three sisters, Olive Demetrius of New York, Carmen Mighty of St. Catherine, Jamaica, and Mavis Stanley of College Station; a brother, Lloyd Demetrius of New York; and several grandchildren.