Ilias "Louis" Sabracos, a fixture in Baltimore's Greek community who owned several successful businesses, including a barbershop and diner, died Wednesday at University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center after suffering a stroke. He was 81.
Born in Tripolis, Greece, Mr. Sabracos was one of four children born to a funeral director and a homemaker. When his father was killed during World War II, he went to work at 10, sweeping up hair in a barbershop to help support his family. He later joined the Greek army, and after his military service was completed, he went to work as a barber.
In 1961, he married Helen Iliopoulos in his hometown of Tripolis. The two moved to Montreal, where they had three children: Demi, Michael and Bess. In 1969, Mr. Sabracos and his family moved to the Rodgers Forge area of Towson. He took a job at Stadium Barbershop, which was near Memorial Stadium.
"Back then, all the ballplayers hung out in the neighborhood," said Michael Sabracos, who used to sweep hair at the barbershop for tips.
Mr. Sabracos received his master barber license in 1971. He opened Center Barber Shop on 36th Street in Hampden. By 1981, he expanded the business to teach barbering and helping students earn their licenses.
In 1983, Mr. Sabracos and his son opened Mike's Place, a diner in Hampden. The restaurant, which was named after his late father, served breakfast and lunch. It was known for its fresh turkey and lumpy mashed potatoes, according to his son.
"He loved having it," his son said about his father's feelings about the restaurant. "The same customers always came in. They remembered everything about you. It was where he came when he closed up the barbershop."
They sold the restaurant in 1998.
Dennis J. Psoras, a Towson-based attorney and longtime friend, recalled Mr. Sabracos' love of family, friends and community.
"A warm and loving father to his three children and seven grandchildren, he adored them and they adored him," Mr. Psoras said. "His firm and warm handshake and gentle laughter and smile when greeting one can never be forgotten."
Mr. Psoras especially remembered Mr. Sabracos' love of Easter.
"They [Mr. Sabracos and his wife] would spend days preparing Easter bread and cookies," Mr. Psoras recalled. "Lamb and pork on the spit, salads, potatoes and many more Greek dishes were prepared and awaiting their many guests. He was a devoted family man."
Mr. Sabracos was an active member of his church, the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, and the city's Greek community. While serving on the church board, he worked to help organize Greek festivals and dances.
Mr. Sabracos was a member and past president of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, Worthington Chapter 30, a philanthropic organization that promotes Greek ideals, including education and civic responsibility. He initiated the Baltimore chapter of the Pan Arcadian Federation of America, a national nonprofit group that seeks to preserve Greek heritage and culture. During his time with that organization, he led a campaign to raise money to support the expansion and growth of the Pan Arcadian Hospital in his hometown of Tripolis, Greece.
"He was a true believer in education," his son said. "It was something he never got. He thought that kids should have an opportunity that he never got a chance to get."
In addition to being an avid Baltimore sports fan, Mr. Sabracos went to the gym every day.
"He walked on the treadmill and got in the pool," his son said. "He had ants in his pants. He couldn't sit still."
Upon retiring in 2003, Mr. Sabracos split his time between Orlando, Fla., and Maryland. While in Florida, he became a member of the Lions Club in Davenport.
Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, 24 W. Preston St. in Baltimore. Interment will follow at the Greek Orthodox Cemetery on Windsor Mill Road in Woodlawn.
In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Sabracos is survived by two other children, Demi Eagan of Westminster and Bess Vrettakos of Ellicott City; sisters Koula Monokrousos and Nitsa Aholos, who both live in Greece; and seven grandchildren.