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Peter John Costas

August 6, 1924 July 13, 2020
Peter John Costas
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Obituary for Peter John Costas

Peter J. Costas (Pete) was born Panayiotis Ioannis Papathanasiou in Athens, Greece, on August 6, 1924 to Ioannis and Anthodesmi Papathanasiou. He fell asleep in the Lord on July 13, 2020. His father, Ioannis, was an attorney and served as a Greek Minister of Justice. He was predeceased by his parents, his brother, Anthony and his sister, Kaity. He is survived by his loving wife of 69 years, Maria Lekas Costas as well as his sisters, Antigone Karnesiotou and Evangelia Kokkonis (Mario). He is also survived by his nephews: John Karnessiotis, Monk Nicholas, of Mt. Athos, John Costas; and his nieces: Nausika Karnessiotou, Anthi Kokkonis, Ellie Kokkonis and Polixania Costas; first cousins: Theodore P. Costas Jr. (Melanie), Lynda Ann Costas, James Costas aka Dimitris Papathanasiou (Theodora), of Athens, Greece, Dr. Peter C. Costas (Ilse), of Berlin, Germany, as well as numerous cousins and extended family in Greece, Germany and the United States.

During the German occupation of Greece, Pete was part of the Greek Resistance, which necessitated his fleeing the country in 1944. Fourteen months passed before his family received a message that he was still alive.

He had visited the office of an American Counsel and was told it would be seventeen years before he would be allowed to immigrate to the United States. He made his way through Italy and then France, where he was part of the French Resistance and worked with the Allies and the OSS, for intelligence purposes, as he spoke Greek, English, French and Italian. It was there that he met and worked with two fellow Greeks, Costa and Achille, who would remain lifelong friends, visiting Jackson several times with their families through the years. These friends aided him in passing a test to receive a union card needed to work in France, as he was living in an attic and had no legitimate address. This allowed him to get a job in a factory cleaning cylinders. As soon as he could, he found work on a ship bound for the United States.

He had written to this uncle, Theodore P. Costas, Sr. that if he did not get out of France, he probably would not survive the winter due to malnutrition and the threat of tuberculosis. By the time he arrived in New York in 1949, as a seaman aboard a commercial vessel seeking asylum in the United States, he had been wounded four times in the European Theater. He telephoned his Uncle Theo, who arranged funds and transportation to Jackson, Mississippi for him.

He resided at his uncle’s home, attended Millsaps College, and worked on the Costas farm and at Southern Beverage Co., Inc. Through the efforts of his uncle, who had been appointed Chairman of Greek War Relief for the State of Mississippi during WWII, Senator John Stennis introduced a special Bill in the United States Senate which allowed Peter permanent residence in the United States. Senator Stennis shepherded the Bill through Congress, to the desk of President Harry S. Truman, where the Bill was signed.

It was at his uncle’s home, that he met and fell in love with Maria Lekas, who was visiting one Sunday afternoon with her parents. On December 9, 1950, he and Maria were married.

He became a proud citizen of the United States of America in 1957.

Pete was in the restaurant business, owning and operating the Shamrock Drive Inn, a popular hangout, where he had a positive influence on many teenagers and subsequently, the Shamrock Continental Restaurant. He also developed an innovative frozen pizza business. During his years in the restaurant business, he strongly influenced his Goddaughter, Cathy “Cat” Cora. He helped teach her to cook and taught her the restaurant business as well.

After his restaurant career, he became a successful commercial realtor and developer. He developed Village Square Place shopping center and other projects in the Jackson metropolitan area. He was instrumental in acquiring the property for the Downtown YMCA, where for many years he enjoyed playing handball with close friends and especially enjoyed beating those much younger than he.

Pete was a member of the AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association), the Realtors Association and a Friday luncheon club that met at the Capitol Club. Pete and Maria enjoyed worldwide traveling until recent years, due to declining health. They were active in Millsaps College activities. He was a perfectionist, diligent worker, very personable with a kind voice and was an avid reader. He considered himself an American, but he never forgot Greece.

He resided at The Blake for the last few years of his life with his wife, Maria. The excellent care provided by the Blake, the staff at Baptist Medical Center and the staff at Hospices Ministries is deeply appreciated. We could not be more grateful for the endless time spent and loving care provided by Brandy Quinn, Susan Copeland, Sherman Brown, Victoria Renee Ragsdale and all of the caregivers of Mockingbird Comfort Care.

Services were held Friday, July 17, 2020 at Holy Trinity - St. John the Theologian Greek Orthodox Church, Rev. Protopresbyter Andrew Koufopoulos officiated. Due to the circumstances regarding COVID-19, only close family members were in attendance. Donations may be made to Holy Trinity - St. John the Theologian Greek Orthodox Church, 5725 S Pear Orchard Road, Jackson, MS 39211 or the charity of your choice.

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Private Funeral Service, Holy Trinity-St. John The Theologian Greek Orthodox Church
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