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Greek CommunityOPINION; The Influence of Very Rev. Father Tryfon

OPINION; The Influence of Very Rev. Father Tryfon

Hellenic News of America
Hellenic News of America
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By William Planes

While my father was a significant role model in shaping my life, one of the greatest influences on my philosophy on serving others was my best friend, the Very Rev. Father Tryfon K. Theophilopoulos. “Father Tryfon”, the Dean of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral for 30 years. Father Tryfon stood out as a unifying leader in the Tarpon Springs community. While without a doubt a significant influence on the Church Community of St. Nicholas his love of the Church reaches far beyond the doors of the Church. His light shone brightly as a husband, father, friend and most importantly, a “Man of God”.

As a “Man of God” and a friend he inspired so many, including myself, to do good things for others. Not long after we became friends did I start working with him to help members of the St. Nicholas Church Community reaching out with him to those who were in need. If someone had cancer and couldn’t afford chemotherapy treatment, we paid for their treatment. Years ago, there were three children whose mom went missing and father was in prison. The children were being raised by their grandparents who were in their mid to late 80’s and lived on a fixed income. We helped support that family. Father Tryfon told them to go to the Acropolis Deli and see Teddy. The Grandmother would go to Teddy’s once a week and get meats and cheeses and everything she needed for that week, she was never asked to pay as Teddy and I, at the request of Father Tryfon handled everything.

But it was not the acts of kindness and good that we provided that influenced me, it was more the way Father Tryfon went about providing these acts of kindness and good works that was important. There’s an old Greek saying that in English means “Do a good deed and expect nothing in return.” While my parents always stressed this to me, as well as my brother and sister, as we grew up, it was not till I saw Fr. Tryfon practice this as a part of his everyday life that I really realized it’s true meaning and importance.

Stepping forward to do be kind and do good deeds should never be to gain recognition. Serving others should be done from the heart without any request of expectation of recognition or reward. You do it simply to serve others. Father Tryfon was the embodiment of this saying, “Do a good deed and expect nothing in return.” After he died, a ledger was found in his desk draw, a draw that he always kept locked. On one side of the ledger, he had tracked all the gratuities he received for services he provided, be they house blessings, baptisms, weddings, etc..

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On the opposite page in the ledger, he recorded the disposition of these gratuities, all of which evidenced that he used the money to help people. This record went as far back as thirty years, the time he first arrived in Tarpon Springs and assumed his assignment as the Dean of St. Nicholas Cathedral and the Spiritual Father to virtually decades of Orthodox Christian. As it turns out, he didn’t keep any of the gratuities that he was given, but, never told anybody, he turn these gratuities into Blessings in the form of generosity and assistance to the many that were in need and whom he met and interacted with each day of his life; he With these gratuities Father Tryfon paid electric bills, bought food, and distributed turkeys on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas as well as among many other charitable acts to assist those in need; Fr. Tryfon brought joy and comfort to people, some he knew and many he did not know; he did it to do good and never sought recognition. He took the generosity, the gratuities, that were bestowed on him and redistributed this to those in need, never once asking or seeking recognition for his acts or retaining anything for himself.

By knowing and understanding Father Tryfon’s life and acts of kindness to all those around him, including strangers, we can learn what it truly means to be a Philanthropist, a truly great giver, an unselfish caring and loving person. It’s not about the amount of money or time that you give but rather how much of yourself you give without expecting or asking for anything in return.

While not asking or expecting it, I was moved and happy that William Planes and Regina Planes were announced as the first recipient of the Very Rev. Father Tryfon Theophilopoulos Philanthropist of the Year” in 2006. While named Philanthropist of the year, Fr. Tryfon was truly a Philanthropist as he thought us to give freely and without expectation of gain or recognition; Fr. Tryfon was the real Philanthropist as he always gave from whatever he had freely to those in need.

Fr. Tryfon’s service to the Church and the Tarpon Springs Community made him a special person. How fortunate I was to have him as a friend. And a role model.

As I contemplate how he lived his life, through acts of kindness, generosity, understanding, and compassion; knowing he was my best friend and spiritual father, I wonder was Father Tryfon more than a good man, husband, father, grandfather, “a man of God”, and a spiritual leader both inside and outside the Church. Perhaps he was and is a Saint.

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