Thursday, October 2, 2008

Remembering George Tyrogalas

Remembering George Spyros Tyrogalas
10 August 1939 – 28 September 2008

George Tyrogalas, longtime resident of Oakland, California, high school teacher, and friend to many, made his transition from this life to the next after a lengthy stay at a hospital in Athens, Greece while vacationing and checking on his recently completed residential property. Being eager to settle into his home away from home he over-exerted himself and suffered a heart attack while visiting an island with friends. He was hospitalized for several weeks in Athens during which his condition deteriorated due to complications of diabetes and other heart issues. He was surrounded by good friends to include Yiannis and Lily Samaras, who lovingly looked after him and were with him when he made his transition. Friends in the Bay Area prayed for a miracle to bring George safely home but sadly it was not to be. On October 2, 2008, George was laid to rest in the Byronas Cemetery in Athens, Greece.
George was born in Kallithea, Greece and grew up an only child during the German occupation of Greece. In 1960 he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to study architecture at the University of California Berkeley. He eventually transferred to California State University at Hayward, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree. After graduating from college George enjoyed a thirty-five plus year career as a Bay area high school teacher. He was immensely popular with his students who lovingly called him “Mr. T.” He taught architectural design, drafting, calligraphy, woodshop, metal shop, and numerous other industrial design classes. He taught for many years at Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco, then at De LaSalle High School in Concord and for many years in the Berkeley Unified School District and in recent years at Skyline High in Oakland. In June 2008 he retired from teaching and was looking forward to enjoying his friends, loved ones, and precious animals, as well as traveling back and forth to Greece. George greatly loved his teaching career and his students who after having graduated would find him at a favorite cafe in Oakland or Berkeley and exchange fond stories and remembrances. George looked forward to his retirement and future pilgrimages to his beloved Greece where he planned to entertain his many friends.

George was blessed for thirty-one years with the loving companionship of Ann Kingsbury, whom he met through his good friend, Yiannis Samaras, who first met the lovely Ann at Lord Jim’s on Polk Street in San Francisco on Halloween 1977. George was a customer at the Bank of America in Berkeley where Ann worked as a teller. Ann and George shared a great love for friends, family, and their precious animals.

Ann says in her own words, “We struck up a friendship, and the rest is a crazy, mercurial, wild ride. Even though we were only "together" for the first ten years, he remained a friend and a part of my family for the entire time. He has come to most Christmases for the past thirty-one years, and many other holidays, birthdays, Blues Festivals, etc. We were like oil and vinegar much of the time. He drove me crazy, but of course I loved him. I never really knew how he felt about me. He was hard to get to say his inner most feelings most of the time. He would tell others things that he never told me, but I know he felt like family, and for that I am grateful, that he felt like he belonged here.”

George is remembered as a wonderful man whose heart was filled with love and kindness for friends and strangers alike. George had many friends and together they enjoyed café society in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley. He was unfailingly polite and complimentary to all he met. He generously offered to give everyone a tour of the Greek Islands if they ever came there during the summers, as he returned to his homeland every year. He always enjoyed admiring beautiful women and never met a pedicure that he didn’t appreciate. He had an amazing wit and excelled as a philosopher and story teller, holding court almost nightly with his friends in recent years at Café Strada. He particularly appreciated the blues and enjoyed videoing people and bands at the San Francisco Blues Festival, organized by his good friend, Tom Mazzolini.

George leaves behind his loving companion of thirty-one years, Ann Kingsbury and. many good friends and countless students who adored him. His cats, Zoe and Calypso, and his precious little dog named First all miss him dearly.

Personally I had the pleasure of getting to know George over many years at Peaberry’s Coffee at Market Hall on College Avenue in Oakland. We casually met up on an almost daily basis at the end of the day or on Saturday afternoons. He always made over the many dogs and little children who were passers-by. He was especially kind to my precious little granddaughter, Savannah. I feel blessed that George invited me into his fascinating circle of friends that included Thanasis Maskaleris, George Gekis, Yiannis and Lily Samaras, Tom Mazzolini, Wakeford Gong and so many other wonderful people.

We are all blessed to have had George in our lives. We are all so very grateful for his love, wisdom, understanding, kindness, and friendship through the years.

Donations in George's name may be made to the Milo Foundation.