Leon Samuel Idas, who owned a commercial used clothing business and fought the German occupation of his native Greece during World War II, died of a cerebral ailment April 12 at his home in Lauderhill, Fla. He was 87 years old and formerly lived in Bolton Hill.
Born in Athens, Greece, he was the son of Samuel and Miriam Ioudas, who also used the name Gabrielides. His father was a textile merchant.
"My father's early life was interrupted by the invasion of his beloved homeland, by the Germans during World War II," said his son, Samuel Idas of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "At 16, Leon fled the Nazi-fortified city of Athens with forged documents and instructions from underground resistance leaders. He and a friend joined the partisans in the mountain regions of Greece to fight the occupation."
He said his father told him of firefights with the enemy. He said he endured having little food, often lived outdoors in the cold and maneuvered to stay ahead of the Germans. He worked in communications, stringing wires through trees.
After the Allies liberated Greece, Mr. Idas found the Nazis had deported and killed his parents and eldest brother, Gabriel, at the Auschwitz death camp, his son said.
He then joined the Royal Greek Army and was a part of the country's struggle during the 1946-1949 civil war. He chose to leave Greece and immigrated to Baltimore in 1951. He also joined the Maryland National Guard and held the rank of sergeant.
In 1952, he married Ruth London, who had been a 1939 refugee from Nazi-controlled Germany. They lived on Beethoven Avenue near Gwynn Oak Park. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1964.
That year, according to an account in The Sun, Mr. Idas was leaving the old Deutsches Haus restaurant on Cathedral Street when he found two men distributing anti-Semitic literature. He objected, and the two men attacked him.
"Mr. Idas was forced against a wall and then beaten and kicked," the news article said as it quoted court testimony. One of his attackers was sentenced to prison.
Mr. Idas became a production supervisor for Shapiro & Whitehouse, a business that recycled paper and used clothing. When that business closed about 40 years ago, Mr. Idas founded his own business, Royal Vintage Clothing, on Gwynns Falls Parkway near the Mondawmin shopping center.
According to news reports, he kept a large inventory that contained used tuxedos, 1940s gabardine suits, beaded dresses, old Boy Scout shirts and rack after rack of old blue jeans.
"In the demimonde of cheap, high chic, Leon Idas wields power," said a 1980 article in the old News American. "He watches, listens and walks the streets of the capitals of the world observing the habits of the young and funky."
The article called him the "king of rags."
His son said his father's company supplied the cast-off clothing to stores around the world. He also dealt with costume departments of film studios.
"He was comfortable anywhere and with anyone in any culture," his son said. "He was always the center of attention in a crowd, party or event. He always had great stories to tell."
Mr. Idas was also a founder of the Bolton Street Synagogue. In a 1992 article in the Jewish Times, he discussed living downtown. "By living among different types of people here, we might be able to eliminate all this hate and ignorance about Jews and find that we can all learn from each other."
In 1968, he married Elise Zalis, of Baltimore. They lived on Park Avenue and later on Jordan Street in Bolton Hill.
Mr. Idas returned to Greece in the summers and had an apartment on the island of Samos. "He reminisced there about the good times of his childhood, when he would visit his grandparents, who owned a wine factory on the island," said his son, who said his father also took care of the family's private cemetery there.
Mr. Idas retired to Florida in 2000. He belonged to a Greek club, the Ahepans.
Services with be held in Athens. No date has been set.
In addition to his son and wife, survivors include another son, David Idas of Fort Lauderdale; a daughter, Judy Novick of Bala Cynwyd, Pa.; a brother, Salvy Gabrieli of Tel Aviv; and five grandchildren.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun