Nicholas Tsakalos, co-owner of Baltimore-based H&S Bakery, died Wednesday of complications from Lewy body dementia at his home in Phoenix, Baltimore County. He was 72.
Mr. Tsakalos was born in Highlandtown in 1942, the son of Harry Tsakalos and Liberty Paterakis Tsakalos.
In 1943, his father and his grandfather, Isidore "Steve" Paterakis, founded H&S Bakery, where he would work for more than 55 years.
"He was a straight arrow and was as upstanding a citizen as you could find," said Aris Melissaratos, a friend and former secretary of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. "Nick became the 'Mr. Inside' of family baking operations. He was the operations guy. He always led by example and by his quiet demeanor. He was a beloved figure."
Mr. Tsakalos was a 1961 graduate of Polytechnic Institute and earned a bachelor's degree at the Johns Hopkins University. He also studied at the Baking Institute in Chicago.
During Mr. Tsakalos' time at H&S Bakery, family members said, the business grew into one of the largest privately held bakeries on the East Coast. He became a partner in the business and served as vice president of operations.
His wife, Jeanne Tsakalos said he was "a hands-on man" at the bakery and that the factory employees loved him.
"Nick will be remembered as the nicest guy you'll ever meet," his wife said in a remembrance. "He always looked for people to help and had a generous heart."
Mr. Tsakalos worked with a number of charities. He was a benefactor through the Endowment Fund for Orthodox Missions at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary in Brookline, Mass. He served for several years on the advisory board of the Children's Guild and the Dyslexia Tutoring Program.
He also established the Nicholas Tsakalos Endowed Scholarship, which provides college students opportunities to study in Greece.
"Nicholas Tsakalos was a major Baltimore philanthropist who had supported thousands, always quietly," said a friend, George Petrocheilos. "I was blessed to meet Mr. Nick in my first year in America, as a freshman at Johns Hopkins, and we became close. He would come out of the H&S Bakery literally dressed like a baker. ... He never stopped working.
"He always wanted to speak in Greek to me," said Mr. Petrocheilos. "He was proud of our heritage. When I was suggesting fancy places for lunch in Harbor East, he always said, 'Let's go to Ikaros in Greektown.'"
H&S remains a family business. Mr. Tsakalos' sons — who are all employed at the company — recalled in a remembrance being awakened at 5 a.m. on Saturdays to head to the bakery with their father when they were children.
"Those mornings with our dad and grandparents taught us the importance of dedication to family and to business," said one son, Harry Tsakalos of Parkville. "My dad always wore his bakery 'whites' uniform and really connected with the employees. He was a humble man."
Another son, Michael Tsakalos of Hunt Valley, said they would "sleepwalk" around the bakery until their grandfather would take them to Eastern House for breakfast. "He grew up in the business and dedicated his life to it. He used to work seven days a week, starting early in the morning and coming home just in time for dinner," Michael Tsakalos said of his father.
Stan Helowicz, a manager at H&S who worked with Mr. Tsakalos for 40 years, said in a remembrance that Mr. Tsakalos treated him like a friend, not an employee. "He was the kind of boss that you wanted to do a good job for — to make him proud of you and have confidence in you."
"The only time my dad left work early was to coach baseball and soccer," said another son, Christopher Tsakalos of Phoenix.
His father loved sports, Christopher Tsakalos said, and was a ticket holder for the Orioles, Colts and Ravens.
Mr. Tsakalos coached youth sports for 30 years and was inducted into the Lutherville-Timonium Recreation Council Hall of Fame, according to family members.
John Paterakis Jr., also a co-owner of H&S Bakery and Mr. Tsakalos' cousin, said in a remembrance that he was "sincere, respected, and a mentor and friend."
"He was my baseball coach as a child and exemplified admired work ethic in all endeavors," he said.
Mr. Tsakalos was a parishioner of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation in Baltimore, where he regularly attended services and once served on the parish council.
He was a member of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America's Leadership 100 group and was presented with the Christian Life Award by the Central Maryland Ecumenical Council. He also was honored for his service to the Orthodox Church by Archbishop Demetrios of America, who bestowed on him the title of Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Monday at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, Preston and Cathedral streets.
In addition to his wife and sons, he is survived by six grandchildren.