Peter Papadakos, singer and volunteer for many Pittsburgh-area Greek churches, has died

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Peter Papadakos was passionate about his Greek heritage, serving the church and helping anyone in need.

These ideals and the practice of law were among the first things that came to mind when friends reflected on the McKeesport native’s life.

A treasurer and longtime member of the Grecian Odyssey Dancers of East Pittsburgh died of complications from covid and pneumonia on January 14. He was 66 years old.

“He was a really good friend to a lot of people and did a lot of good things for a lot of people,” said longtime friend Mary Doreza, manager of the Grecian Odyssey Dancers. “I know Peter would be very positive and try to do his best, and I will try to do that too.”

Doreza and Papadakos have known each other for over 30 years. She remembered him as a dancer who gave it his all in 835 performances, the most of any male in the group.

Papadakos has been to Greece with the dance team a few times and has been a mentor to the younger generation.

“Peter was especially great with all the youngsters,” Doreza said. “He encouraged them to continue their education (and) got a few to go into law. Always giving of himself, not only giving his professional talents, but he would do some of the legal work for the larger church. He loved Greece.

“He really did more than five or six people put together in terms of philanthropy.”

Her last dance was at a holiday party in the South Hills on December 17. Alecia Denillo was her dance partner there.

One of their dances was the Sousta, in which Denillo danced quickly and Papadakos playfully chased after her.

Denillo, 34, of Plum said he showed no signs of illness or slowing down during the show.

“He was the jack of all trades – and the master of most, in my opinion,” Denillo said. “He was so enthusiastic about the things he was teaching, especially about the church.”

Music Officer at Oakmont Church

Papadakos was chief of music for more than four decades at the Dormition of Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church in Oakmont.

Denillo is a parishioner of this church and was one of Papadakos’ singing students.

“The love just came out of him and it was contagious,” Denillo said. “It made me want to learn more and more. He always challenged me. He was an endless encyclopedia of knowledge, not only that he was fun. He was funny. We were friends. He was my spiritual guide, but also my close friend, and I miss him dearly.

Papadakos graduated from McKeesport Area High School in 1973, graduated magna cum laude from Dickinson College, Carlisle in 1977. He majored in English and Ancient Greek and received his law degree from Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh in 1980.

In private practice shortly after graduating from Duquense, Papadakos served as Chief Clerk to the Civil Division Administrative Judge of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas from 1980 to 1983.

From 1984 to 1995, he served as chief legal officer for his father, State Supreme Court Justice Nicholas P. Papadakos.

Papadakos served as Treasurer/Financial Secretary of the Board of Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Pittsburgh for many years. He was also its Propotsalti, or chief cantor.

“His life was really his legal practice and his church,” said the Reverend Ryan Gzikowski, archdeacon of the Greek Orthodox metropolis of Pittsburgh. “The dancers were part of the church. It was all about his Greek heritage. … He was one of those volunteers who always showed up.

Gzikowski said Papadakos never accepted payment for his legal assistance and was instrumental in bringing Metropolis to tax-exempt status in the 1980s.

Papadakos would go on to help many other churches and humanitarian organizations.

Friends and family gathered at the Dormition of Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church in Oakmont on January 19. A funeral service was held the next day at the church followed by an entombment at McKeesport Mausoleum and Versailles Cemetery.

A memorial scholarship fund has been established in Papadakos’ name. Gzikowski said he has already received several thousand dollars in donations.

Contributions may be mailed to Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh, PO Box 645953, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-5257.

Donors should list the Peter Clyde Papadakos Memorial Scholarship Fund on the memo line of the check.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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