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Greek CommunityPeter (Panos) Skiadas, 88: Remembering a Philanthropic Leader and Community Pillar

Peter (Panos) Skiadas, 88: Remembering a Philanthropic Leader and Community Pillar

Hellenic News
Hellenic News
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Peter (Panos) Skiadas, 88: April 22, 1935 – April 17, 2024

Peter Skiadas, former owner of the Longwood Inn and Hank’s Place in Chadds Ford, PA, passed away peacefully April 17, 2024, at his home surrounded by loved ones at the age of 88. He was born in Homori, a small village of Greece north of Nafpaktos, on Palm Sunday, April 22, 1935, and he was the first out of five children of Nicholas and Fotini Skiadas.

He came to the United States as an immigrant in June of 1954, bringing with him an unquenchable thirst for education and hard work. He carried with him a profound respect for education and was, himself, well educated in the Greek classics and philosophy. He took immeasurable pride in his two sons’ advanced educational achievements: Nicholas, an MD in Cardiology, and Anthony, a DMD, owner of Smilebuilderz Dental in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

He had a strong and clear perspective of life’s ephemeral pleasures. His philosophy on life and death was very realistic. “I am not afraid of dying”, he used to say stoically. “Death is the ultimate fate of all human beings. I have no regrets for that. What I am regretful for is that death, many times, comes at a period of our lives when we are just beginning to understand the deepest meaning of life.”

His entire life was one of faith in the American dream, love to his church and Hellenic heritage and devotion to his wife of 48 years, Stavroula Demestihas.

His elementary and high school years were very turbulent and interrupted by the German occupation and the civil war in Greece. Due to the absence of a teacher in his own village, he had to attend school in the next village one and a half hours away from home. Rain or snow he had to walk that distance five days a week, most of the time bare footed and without food.

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In 1954, having graduated from Nafpaktos High School, he came to America where he was accepted to attend the Hellenic College and the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts (institutions preparing Greek teachers and priests for the Greek American communities in the United States). After his graduation from Hellenic College and the Holy Cross Theological School, as Valedictorian of his 1961 class, he was awarded the Taylor Scholarship from the Greek Archdiocese to study classics and philosophy at The University of Athens. After receiving his diploma from the University of Athens, Magna Cum Laude, he returned to Boston, Massachusetts, where he was appointed by the late Archbishop Iakovos to teach classical Hellenistic and modern Greek literature at Hellenic College and the Holy Cross School of Theology. In 1969 while teaching, he received his master’s degree in the classics from Boston College and he continued expanding his education by taking graduate courses in the classics and Byzantine literature at Harvard University. After eight years of teaching at Hellenic College and the University of Massachusetts (Boston campus), he decided to give up academics, he joined Skiadas Brothers Enterprises, a family-owned company engaged in the restaurant, gift shop, and real estate business in Pennsylvania.

The first restaurant that he managed was The Longwood Inn in Kennett Square, a town known as the world’s mushroom capital. There he became very much interested in the mushroom culinary arts and with the help of local mushroom growers, he became instrumental in starting the Kennett Square Mushroom Festival that eventually became an annual event. In order to promote the use of mushrooms in cooking, Peter initiated the “Mushroom Symposium”, a culinary event at which famous mycologists participated. This culinary event quickly became a huge sold-out event and attracted the attention of the national media like The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and other magazines to write extensively about the Kennett Square mushroom industry.

Pictured here with his son, Dr. Antony Skiadas and friend Paul Kotrotsios

For Peter Skiadas, love for flowers and gardening ran pretty deep. For him, planting flowers and vegetables and watching them grow was a sort of mystical-spiritual experience. The Brandywine Garden Club awarded him with an honorary plaque commemorating his efforts. He was a supporter of the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society for many years, and he received awards from them for the beautification of his properties.

Peter, together with his brothers Ted, George, Pete, and his brother-in-law Harry Keares, was involved in many projects and organizations beneficial to the community. Whatever he did together with his brothers, was the result of a strong faith and a genuine belief in the American spirit of volunteerism. He believed that good relations with people produce benefits that eventually flow back to the community. He also believed that if you take from your community, you should be more foresighted about putting something back in to it.

The year 1983 was the year that Lee lacocca started a noble project to raise money for the restoration of the Statue of Liberty. Peter and his brothers responded to lacocca’s call by commissioning and raffling a large hand-crafted liberty centennial quilt. More than 50,000 one-dollar raffle tickets were printed and sold to the public. All the proceeds of the sale were donated to the Statue of Liberty Restoration Fund. The winner of the quilt agreed to donate it to the American Folk Art Museum of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. The quilt is now in permanent exhibit there. The project of the centennial quilt was praised locally and nationally. The local newspaper of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, “The New Era” wrote … ‘The community is better because of the Skiadas family initiative and creativity. We value this exceptional group of people.”

In 1987, Peter and his brothers financially supported the Friends of Agriculture, an organization in Lancaster County aiding the farmland preservation effort. For this initiative, his company, Skiadas Brothers Enterprises, was honored by President Ronald Reagan for outstanding achievement in volunteer service and community outreach.

In 1991, Peter and his beloved wife, Stavroula, bought Hank’s Place, a very popular eatery in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Under their 27 years of ownership, Hank’s Place became very well known, not only for its homestyle cooking but also for its friendly atmosphere and service. It became a place “where hungry people eat, and friendly people meet” and the center of artistic endeavors. Frequented by all local artists of the Brandywine area including the master painter, Andrew Wyeth. To celebrate their ownership of Hank’s Place and to show their neighborly support, the Skiadases instituted an annual breakfast to benefit the Chadds Ford Historical Society. Each year, the proceeds of that breakfast were donated to the Historical Society. For their generosity and community spirit, the Historical Society presented Peter and his wife, Voula, with a lifetime membership to the Society and the Brandywine Museum of Art.

One of Peter’s favorite organizations that he belonged to for 35 years was the Rotary Club of Kennett Square. He was attracted to joining it by his conviction and belief that “service above self’ should be the driving force of one’s life.

One of the most important service projects of Rotary that attracted his attention was Rotaplast. Rotaplast provides free reconstructive surgery for children in other countries that were born with cleft lip and palate anomalies. Peter took time from his business to voluntarily participate in four of these Rotaplast reconstructive surgical missions. Three in Peru, high up in the Andes Mountains, and one in Shijiazhuang City of China. In 2007, he was elected by his Rotary Club as Rotarian of the Year. “In sincere appreciation and recognition of distinguished service, loyalty and devotion to the ideals of Rotary”.

Other organizations that he was affiliated with was the Modern Greek Studies Association of America and Canada and the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA). He joined AHEPA in 1988 and served as chairman of its scholarship committee for many years.

Peter’s greatest joy and source of happiness and pride was the wellbeing of his family. His beloved wife, Voula, his two sons, Nicholas Skiadas, and Anthony Skiadas, husband of Kara, and their children, Pano, Roula, Elizabeth, and Billy always came first. He loved cooking for his family. Peter’s family also includes his brothers Ted N. Skiadas, husband of Martha, George N. Skiadas, and Nondas N. Skiadas, husband of Patti, and his sister Irene Keares, wife of Harry.

After retirement Peter and Voula moved to Lancaster and he loved hosting his grandchildren and family and friends and visiting Little Chef Restaurant in Coatesville with his brother Pete for lunch and to visit his other brothers and cousins. He loved Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church and seeing Fr. Veronis who gave him courage to continue his journey, and Fr. Hector who continues the legacy of Fr. Veronis. When living in Kennett Square he loved his St. Nicholas Orthodox Church family in Coatesville, who constantly prayed for Panos’s and Voula’s wellbeing.

Aside from always being busy with his business, Peter never lost touch with his roots in Greece. He visited his ancestral home two times a year and, along with his brother Ted, financially helped to convert the old, abandoned school of his village into a cultural center with a library and a museum where local artifacts are being exhibited. They did this as a tribute to their parents’ memory, Nicholas and Fotini Skiadas.

A viewing will take place Tuesday, April 23, 2024, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm with the Trisagion Service at 7:00 pm at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, 64 Hershey Avenue, Lancaster, PA 17603. Another viewing will take place on Wednesday, April 24, 2024, from 9:30 to 11:00 am, followed by the funeral at 11:00am with The Rev. Hector Firoglanis officiating, at Holy Ghost Ukrainian Orthodox Church, 392 Charles Street, Coatesville, PA 19320. Interment in Fairview Cemetery, Coatesville, PA.

In lieu of flowers kindly consider a contribution in Peter’s memory to Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church Building Fund, 64 Hershey Avenue, Lancaster, PA 17604 or to St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, 11 Oak Street, Coatesville, PA 19320.

Source: Charles F. Snyder Funeral Home

The copyrights for these articles are owned by the Hellenic News of America. They may not be redistributed without the permission of the owner. The opinions expressed by our authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Hellenic News of America and its representatives.

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