June 23 1920 March 25 2020
Nicholas Chiropolos June 23, 1920 – March 25, 2020 Share this obituary Send Flowers View/Sign Guestbook| Send Sympathy Card NICK CHIROPOLOS 1920-2020: AN AMERICAN LIFE By sons Mike and Jim. Nick was born and raised in a neighborhood of Peanutville on the West Side of Chicago. “Once a West Sider, always a West Sider,” as the saying goes. Peanutville was a tough, close-knit neighborhood of mostly working class immigrant families – with a healthy mix of Irish-, Italian- and Greek-Americans. You came out with an advanced degree in street smarts. Back in the day, big families were commonplace. Nick was second oldest after his brother Jim, followed by Bill, Mike, Tina, John and Dorothy known as “Babe”. The seven brothers and sisters accounted for 14 kids in the next generation, and something like 20 in the next and just the one great grandchild (that we know about) to date. Nick’s father George was a Greek immigrant from the village of Rizes in the Tripoli Region of Greece, located on a hillside in view of the Parnon Mountains and about a half-marathon as the crow flies from the Argolic Gulf of the Aegean Sea. Olive orchards cover the hillsides, lemon and plane trees grow in town, sheep and goats dot the grasslands, and pork is among the local specialties. Nick’s mother Lillian or “Yia Yia” was from the same region. She had a wicked sense of humor, a watchful eye, and cooked a mean pie. Nick’s father George was a fruit vendor with a produce stall in the Maxwell Street open air market. They bought the produce on Water Street. Father George was the first fruit vendor in the market to buy a pickup truck. One of my Nick’s Uncles was the last one to use a horse and wagon, and the Chicago Tribune wrote a story about him around 1930. New school and old school. Father George kept food on the table for the family through the Great Depression. In scenes out of the Godfather, when Nick was a boy he and his brother would be driving to the market on Saturday with their Dad. A couple “wise guys” in fedoras would step in front. Grandpa George would tell the boys to climb in the back. He would talk to the local protection association and remind them he had 9 mouths to feed so go easy on him. They would work something out. Nick graduated from Austin High around 1938. Bill DeCorrevont was a classmate, one of the biggest prep football sensations in U.S. history. In a public school final for the City of Chicago Nick and 90,000 other spectators packed Soldier Field. Since we’re here, we’ll sneak in Northwestern University, the Illini, and St. John’s the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church because we can. Nick became the man in the family after his father died – looking after five younger brothers and sisters. He tried to join the army twice when WWII broke out, but the recruiters knew he was responsible for the family, so he stayed home. His older brother Jim joined the Marine Corps and fought at Iwo Jima, one of the storied battles in one of the most just wars in history. Brother Bill shipped also shipped out the Pacific Theater, documenting his hair-raising adventures and scrapes with death in a journal titled a “Philippines Odyssey”. After the war, Bill was a civil war responsible for rebuilding the runway of the Tokyo Airport. General MacArthur checked in with Bill, who was all about 24-years old, weekly for updates on the infrastructure. Uncle Mike served as an elite Army Ranger in Germany after the war; and Uncle John was in the mail division of the Army, before joining the U.S. Postal Service. Tina and Babe kept the home fires burning. When I was a boy we would go to the cemetery and pay our respects to Nick’s father. When we got to the gravestones of his buddies who died in the Pacific Theater he would tear up and sob – one of the few times I remember my Dad crying my entire boyhood. After graduating from Austin High, Nick attended Wright College and got an associate’s degree, interned at an engineering firm and was the last of a generation who could become credentialed mechanical engineers without a four-year degree, based on smarts and training in the workplace. He followed the country West, moving first to LA around 1950, and then to Denver, where Martin Marietta was hiring, and he worked on defense projects including missile design. Nick and wife Joan met on a blind date that became three-score years of marriage. It was a great marriage. They were different – a Greek and a Swede. They didn’t always agree on everything, but their love and care for each other was something else again. Through thick and thin, good times and bad, health and sickness – they were always there for each other. Son Jim was born in 1961 and a cuter tow-headed boy you have never seen. Mike came along in ’63 with brown hair and eyes. In 1964 the family moved to Chicago and bought a home in Des Plaines’ 7th Ward with beautiful sunsets out the backyard. Nick ran for Alderman in 1981 and won a tight, hard-fought race for the open seat of Jack Seitz who was elected Mayor. He served four terms and 16 years, retiring on his own terms. He was independent, outspoken and engaged. He was always out to make the world a better place and play his part in making that happen. He and Carmen Sarlo were close friends and political allies, forming something of a reform and good government partnership. Carmen focused on the budget and efficient services; Nick on issues big and small. Nick loved sports as much as anything. Most of his life he woke up at dawn and ran six miles rain, shine or blizzard. He won a few medals in the Mount Prospect Turkey Trot. He and his brother Bill were biking to work before skinny jeans and reflective vests. Nick was also a long-distance cyclist. He played tennis into his mid-90s. He learned to ski in Colorado. Leather boots and long skinny skies. As a boy, baseball was his first love and he was an accomplished infielder. A Cubs fan, his favorite player was Jackie Robinson. Nick exuded a love for the outdoors, love for nature, love for country, and a love for the simple things in life. He and Joan were connected at the hip through thick and thin. Each would and did do anything and everything for each other. Every day Nick came home from work, he played ball in the back yard or the school yard with his sons. Every. Day. Maybe just playing catch. If it was football, he’d be quarterback for both “teams”. If it was baseball, he’d pitch to both “teams”. He’d offer us a buck if we could hit a “home run” past the pavement to the grass warning track. Back when a buck could buy six 15-cent candy bars. Nick lived through the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, World War II, the Cold War, 9/11, a couple days of CV19 lockdown, the 1985 Bears, the Bulls Dynasty, a White Sox sweep of the Series, the historic election of Chicago’s Barack Obama to the White House, and the long-awaited Cubs Series win. Nick spearheaded a prairie restoration project now known as the Cumberland Prairie. His was an American life. He loved this country with a fierceness and loyalty that only a son of immigrants can feel. His motto was simple: Keep smiling. Stay cool. Lighten up. He would light up a room telling stories and he was always there for his friends and those he loves. We could leave it there, except we won’t. Cheers to the Patriarch of the Chiropolos Clan, who squeezed every drop of nectar from the lemon tree of life. His father’s village in Greece, Rizes, means “roots”. The family put them down in America. With a Greek passion, Nick loved his nieces and nephews Nick, George, Doll, John, Tina, Elaine, Diane, Greg, Paul, Jim, Greg, and Chris, all of their children, his sons Jim and Mike, his wife Joan, and his adventuring grandsons Nick and Archer – all of whom provided no small supply of vicarious adventures in recent years. Usually this would say he died peacefully of naturally causes. So we’ll say it: Nick died peacefully at home of natural causes, and how this guy who had a small heart attack around the age of 50 made it another half-century is a testament to a positive attitude and a Mediterranean diet complimented by a steady supply of Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza and the occasional bacon-cheese omelets with all the trimmings at the L&L diner across from the Cumberland railroad station. Here’s how we’re telling the true taller tale of his last days on earth and his life on it, penned by son Mike the story-catcher the day after he died. Nick Chiropolos 1920-2020 Yesterday afternoon the *OG aka the “Original Greek” (play on words for the unknowing — #OG is a moniker for Original Gangsta and it’s a mark of respect that cuts across color and culture) transitioned My Old Man was aged 99 years and 9 months. In Peanutville, West Siders use “Old Man” as a term of endearment and badge of respect. It was 199 years after Bishop Germanos of Petros raised the flag over the Monastery and the cry FREEDOM OR DEATH echoed across the Peloponnese — Greek Independence Day 25 March 1821. This will be the date we honor and celebrate the rebirth of a nation and the transition of a first generation American to reunite with the proud son of Arcadian soil; of veneration balanced with remembrance of those who selflessly sacrificed and mercilessly suffered during the rebellion. Here’s how it went down: Tuesday morning, the OG was basking in the sun in the yard reading a book about the Great War appreciating the beautiful spring day. He fell on his way into the house — taking a bad tumble on hard ground not soft soils. Mom called for help. Tiffany, a neighbor, is a ray of light and a guardian angel. She was there in a minute. Another neighbor, Mr. Olson, a brawny Scandinavian, carried him into the house. The OG was smiling and playing it cool. He was where he wanted to be. The way he wanted it to be. He calmly drew his last breath in his chair before the ambulance arrived. The Swede Joan Lind was at his side. His older brother’s daughter Tina was on the scene in 15 minutes. Tina’s brood made him a Grandfather four more times over; Doll’s and Tina’s and Mike’s combined kicked him up to 10. And that’s only the half of it. He passed over as he wished. As he made his pact with the Almighty. The fates were kind to a kind man with kind karma. Tina had delivered a deep-dish sausage pizza the night before and left it on the porch. According to Mom, “It was delicious! We shared a beer!” A beer! Living large at 90 and 99. Reminded me of the last time I went to Mykonos (the Greek restaurant on Golf Road, not the Island for the A-listers) with him. I ordered a glass of Roditis thinking I’d get to drink at least half of it. Dad drained it like he was Alexis Zorba in Crete between a bonfire and the waves under the full Olive Ripening Moon. My brother Jim was at Mykonos with them on his last visit. A great meal with great company. They tucked it away. Back to the last night. Dad sang before bedtime after his last sunset. Mom told us that. Happy, joyous, appreciative of the bounty of the earth and the love of family in the midst of a virus that was striking fear into hearts across the land. That was the OG and that’s what we’ll always remember. He woke up feeling good greeting a beautiful day. He sang again in the morning. “God Bless America” for sure, Mom heard that one. I like to think he likely hummed a few lines of “Don’t Fence Me In,” and maybe drifted off to the Redwood Forests and Ellis Island with This Land … Is Made for You and Me. The forests of the Bear Republic where my older brother Jim lives; Ellis Island where Dad’s father George immigrated to the land of freedom and opportunity, scouts and public schools in the 19-teens. He loved creation. He had no patience for those who messed with it. He did his part in his time to protect and restore pieces of our natural heritage –and pass along that gene to younger generations rising like the sun to build a world that treats Mother Earth – Gaia – with the respect he showed the women in his life his entire life. That’s a damn fact and he’ll be watching you young people reading this. You know who you are. He knows you’ll get it right. So Nick was singing his Death Songs – for he sensed Greek Independence Day was a good day to die. Like a Lakota warrior riding into battle with a strong heart and a clear conscious at peace with meeting his maker if he falls on the field. Because he was an upright man on earth. Dad knew. I visited a dreamscape the night before he transitioned where we were suspended above sunset reds and golds jumbled up with mountains. I saw that sky in a sunset over Denver the night Dad passed, and I saw it again the next day in a landscape looking at the mountains from his father’s birthplace in Greece. That was Dad, telling me where he was headed. I forgot the dream until I heard the news. When it hit me. Vividly. The old man is young again and he’s embarked on an odyssey through time and space to catch up with his father whom he always doted on. When they re-unite, they will be telling tales and shooting the bull after four score and five years apart. He’ll be back with the six brothers and sisters who left this world before him and comforted to be with the aunts and sisters and mothers – because that’s where all the love lies. Heaven – and the Elysian Fields – will be more fun and more full of laughter once Nick talks his way past St. Peter. Best to Jim’s Godfather Uncle Nicola Peter of Cyprus and my Godfather Jimmy Seavalis, another lifelong West Sider, Dad. Love, us. Print Obituary
Our most sincere sympathies to the family and friends of Nicholas Chiropolos June 23 1920 March 25 2020.
Death notice for the town of: Des Plaines, state: Illinois