Dr. Savas “Sam” Tsakiris, a dentist who was also a co-owner of the Boulevard Diner in Dundalk, died Saturday from pancreatic cancer at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center. The Hunt Valley resident was 66.
Savas Tsakiris was born in Kattavia, Greece, a small village on the island of Rhodes. He was the son of Moskos Tsakiris, a carpenter, and Anastasia Tsakiris, a seamstress.
In 1961, he immigrated from Rhodes with his family and settled in Baltimore’s Greektown neighborhood.
“Prior coming to America, he took soil from his home village so he could always remember his roots,” said his daughter, Dorothea Tsakiris of Hunt Valley.
“He placed the soil on his mother’s and father’s caskets at their funerals,” she said. “His instructions to his family were to put some of the earth in his coffin, so that his birthplace would always be in his heart.”
After graduating in 1970 from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in 1974 from the University of Maryland, College Park. He was a 1980 graduate of the University of Maryland School of Dentistry.
For the last 37 years and until his death, Dr. Tsakiris, who was known as “Sam,” maintained a general dental practice on Merritt Boulevard.
In 2001, he and a partner developed the Boulevard Diner at the intersection of Merritt Boulevard and Holabird Avenue. The site had once been the home of the House of Neptune, a crab house that had been owned by Dr. Tsakiris’ father-in-law.
The diner, home of specialties including the “Big Ass Sandwich,” “The Bayliner Club,” “Crazy Bird Sandwich,” “Yia Yia Anastasia’s Original Stuffed Grape Leaves” and “The Holabird Strip,” was featured in a 2011 episode of Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” on the Food Channel.
The diner’s customers ranged from presidential candidates, governors and local area politicians to blue-collar workers and residents of Dundalk.
“He was proud to work in the Dundalk area and knowing that hard-working people had connections to the diner,” his daughter said.
“He dedicated his life to helping others whether it be a relative or a stranger,” she said. “Everything he did was for other people. Being a friend, helping people out in times of need, lending a hand, or an ear, he was always there.”
As a youngster, Dr. Tsakiris was an altar boy at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church on Ponca Street. He was a parishioner of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, where he assisted with fundraisers and annual festivals. At the time of his death, he was president of the parish council.
An avid vegetable gardener, Dr. Tsakiris also enjoyed traveling, playing poker and Greek dancing.
Funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at his church, 24 W. Preston St.
In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his wife of 41 years, the former Connie Chilis; a son, Marc Tsakiris of Perry Hall; a half-brother, Kosmas Koukoulis, of Holiday, Fla.; two sisters, Fifi Kutson of Cockeysville and Irene DeRito of Hunt Valley; and three grandchildren.
NOTE: An earlier version of this article misstated the surnames of some survivors. They have been corrected here. The Sun regrets the errors.