Jerry Angelides passed away peacefully at home on Sunday, June 18th, with his family by his side. He lived a long and full life, loved by his family as he loved them. He is now reunited with his beloved Eleni, his spouse of 73 years.
Jerry was truly one of a kind – smart, funny, always interested and interesting, intellectually curious about our world, visionary, principled, and a good troublemaker. Most of all, he was a devoted son, loving husband and father, and wonderful Papou (grandfather) and Pro-Papou (great grandfather). His life was devoted to his family and to the idea that each generation had a duty to sacrifice so the next generation could have even more opportunities to achieve their aspirations.
Jerry was born in San Francisco to Sotiris Angelides and Efthalia Travlos Angelides, immigrants from their native Greece who came here, like so many others, to escape poverty and hardship and to pursue the American Dream. He cherished his parents and particularly his mother who worked day and night as a seamstress so her two sons could go to college and raise their families free of the hardships that she endured. By his own recounting, he was quite a handful as a youngster – struggling in school and getting into mischief (e.g., climbing a telephone pole in the school yard and hurling oranges at the teachers!). But his mother never gave up on him and made him believe that he could be somebody. When his older brother Peter, whom he loved and respected, went to UC Berkeley, Jerry snapped into gear, getting all As in his junior and senior year in high school to barely gain admittance to UC Berkeley and to follow his brother into the field of mechanical engineering.
When World War II broke out, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and became a B-29 Superfortress navigator. His was among the first squadrons of B-29s to deploy overseas. He flew over 30 missions and, for his service, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (twice) and the U.S. Air Medal. He was proud of his service to the country but did not brag about his war record – having survived combat while friends and colleagues did not, he did not believe that war was to be glorified.
In his later life, he came to discover – by searching the internet – that he was among the first 200-300 people to circumnavigate the globe by air. Since the U.S. had not yet captured South Pacific islands when he deployed overseas, they reached their initial base in India (from which they flew over the Himalayas to bomb Japanese military positions in China) by flying over the Atlantic and through Africa and the Middle East. When the war ended, his crew then completed their circumnavigation by returning to Mather Air Force Base.
Upon his return, he re-enrolled at UC Berkeley and graduated in 1947. Soon after, he accepted a job with the Office of the State Architect and moved to Sacramento. He was excited by his work with the state – designing heating and cooling systems for the great university and college system that the state was then building. Later in his career, he worked for the City of Sacramento as a commercial plan checker. In that role, he was known as someone who was tough on the big guys who tried to cut corners – but he was best known as someone who helped many small businesspeople through the bureaucratic maze. He was always for the underdog, the guy working hard to catch a break.
He met the love of his life, Eleni Papadopoulos at a dance party for young Greek Americans in San Francisco and they were married on June 25, 1950. In 1951, they had their first son Kimon and, in 1953, their second son Philip.
From that point on, his life was devoted to giving his two sons every opportunity to achieve success in life and to challenging them to be the best they could be. He invested and saved so they could go to the best schools. He instilled in them a sense of purpose – urging them, yes to make sure that they had economic security, but most of all encouraging them to make a difference for society in public service or the sciences. He taught them about the world – each week, pointing to a country on the globe in his office, telling them to learn as much as possible about that country, and quizzing them the next week. He had them read many history books (and when done, sign them on page 100 like Harry Truman, a political hero of his). He took them on trips to expand their horizons and so they could see how others lived, often struggling to survive. He reminded them - for all the breaks that they would get - to never forget how many people would work as hard if not harder than they would, would be as smart or smarter than they were, but would never get a break. He urged them to give others a break, just as they had been given one.
When Kimon and Philip started their families, he became as devoted and loving to his grandchildren as he was a father to his sons. He was a big part of their lives - attending their school events, their sports activities, and the other big moments in their lives. And when he began to have great grandchildren, he would light up when he was with them and when he was shown photos and videos. When he was young, he had an idyllic dream of the family he would build and, through his will, determination, and love, his dream came true.
Jerry is survived by his sons Kimon (Lefki) and Philip (Julie); his seven grandchildren – Alexei (Marie), Megan (Greg), Christina (Zach), Nick (Pia), Arianna (Dan), Philip, and Eleni (Harry); and his seven great grandchildren – Anaximandros, Alexandra, Isabella, Elodie, Max, Zoe, and Luca. His passing leaves a big hole in our hearts but, for the rest of our lives, we will have the enduring and loving memories of all that he meant to us and did for us.
The Trisagion will be held on Wednesday, June 21st at 7 pm at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church located at 600 Alhambra Boulevard, Sacramento. The funeral service will be held on Thursday, June 22nd at 11 am, also at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, with a reception after the service. A private family interment ceremony will follow.
The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations in Jerry’s honor may be made to the Berkeley Engineering Fund. To contribute, visit this link: https://give.berkeley.edu/fund/FN3200000 .