Liberty Tsakalos, a former corporate treasurer who managed the retail shop of the H&S Bakery, the Southeast Baltimore family-owned business that was co-founded by her husband, brother and father, died Tuesday of Alzheimer's disease complications at her Harbor East home. She was 94.
"She was an anomaly of her time. She was a strong woman working in a man's world, which was especially true of the commercial baking industry in the 1950s and '60s," said her grandson Michael Tsakalos of Hunt Valley. "She was the last woman in the extended Paterakis and Tsakalos families to have worked at the bakery — a place customarily reserved only for the men of the traditional Greek-American family."
She was born in Constantinople, Turkey, the daughter of Isidore "Steve" Paterakis and Kyriaki Paterakis.
According to a biography prepared by her grandson, her father left the family's residence in Chios, Greece, and immigrated alone to the U.S. in1921.
"He came in search of a better life for his family," said her grandson.
After sailing to the U.S., her father took a job baking in Monessen, Pa., and moved his wife and daughters from Greece in 1928. The family eventually settled in Baltimore, where their son John Paterakis Sr., now the chairman of H&S Bakery, was born.
Mrs. Tsakalos was a 1939 graduate of Patterson Park High School. In 1942, she met and wed Harry Tsakalos, a truck driver at the old Athens Bakery on South Bouldin Street, where her father was a baker.
According to the family biography, Harry Tsakalos and Isidore Paterakis bought Olga & Son Bakery in East Baltimore. They then sold their baked goods under the name H&S, for Harry and Steve.
"My grandmother served in various positions at the family business including that of treasurer, sales accountant and manager of the bakery's outlet store in Fells Point," Michael Tsakalos said. "She had a beloved reputation by her family and bakery employees as a tough lady who was known to chase nephews and nieces out of the bakery store for trying to sample purchased products that were not manufactured by the company."
"My uncle John likes to tell about the time when my grandmother was serving as treasurer in the early days of the company's history," said another grandson, Harry Tsakalos of Parkville. "Times weren't always good, and so she would pay the bills alphabetically and would sometimes run out of money by the time she got to the S's. The suppliers would call and ask where their money was, so my uncle would have to tell my grandmother to reverse the order and start paying the Z's first and work backward."
The family remained active in baking and once supplied the old Harley's sandwich shops throughout Baltimore. The chain's owner, Harley P. Brinsfield Sr., regularly mentioned Liberty Tsakalos on his nightly jazz show broadcast on WBAL radio during the 1960s.
H&S moved to Fells Point and expanded a plant along Fleet and Bond streets in the 1960s. The family also answered a request of then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer to help with the development of Harbor East, where Mrs. Tsakalos resided after living in a Highland Avenue rowhouse for many years.
"Aunt Liberty and Uncle Harry had such a great work ethic and taught us the commitment and importance of hard work," said her nephew, John Paterakis Jr., vice president of sales and marketing at the H&S firm.
The family biography described the privately held company as becoming "one of the largest bakeries on the East Coast" that bakes "more than 100 varieties of breads, rolls and specialty items." A sister business, also owned by the Paterakis-Tsakalos family, Northeast Foods Inc., has been a supplier to McDonald's since 1965.
The company remains family-owned and spans four generations, including her son, Nicholas Tsakalos, a resident of Phoenix in Baltimore County.
Mrs. Tsakalos was a member of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation.
"She and her husband were very faithful," said the Rev. Constantine Moralis, dean of the cathedral. "She never drove and attended every service. She and her husband were pious people. They were there to help the cathedral and a number of people in need."
He recalled that when Mrs. Tsakalos ran the store, and the cathedral youth basketball team stopped by, there was never a bill and the members got twice as much as they asked for.
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Mrs. Tsakalos, her husband, her brother John and his former wife Antoinette Paterakis financially assisted the establishment of the Annunciation Orthodox Center at Preston Street and Maryland Avenue in the 1980s.
"My grandmother and grandfather were regarded as one of the pillars of the Greek-American community," her grandson Michael said.