William N. “Bill” Koutrelakos, a veteran Baltimore City Public Schools educator and principal who was an active member of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation where he and his wife were among the founders of its annual Greek Festival, died from complications of COVID-19 on June 23 at Miller’s Grant, an Ellicott City assisted-living facility
The former longtime Perry Hall resident was 91.
“Bill was an extremely personable man who could talk about anything, and bond with anybody. He just got along with everyone” said Bill Coutros, a longtime friend and retired Baltimore County Public Schools teacher.
“I always enjoyed being with him because he was so positive. He never said a bad word about anyone. He only had kind words for everybody, and if someone said something unkind, he always looked to the other side and found something positive to say about that person,” Mr. Coutros said.
William Nicholas Koutrelakos, was the son of Nicholas Koutrelakosand Trianthi Koutrelakos, Greek immigrants who owned and operated Nick’s Lunch, was born and raised in Dover, New Hampshire.
As a youth, Mr. Koutrelakos worked in his parents’ restaurant, and after graduating from Dover High School, began his college studies at the University of New Hampshire where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1953 in zoology, and then served two years in the Navy as a corpsman.
In 1956, he met the former Mary Moniodis, a registered nurse, at a Greek dance in Baltimore. The couple fell in love and were married in 1956, and after initially living in the city, moved to Perry Hall where they raised their two children.
After earning a master’s degree in elementary education from what is now Loyola University of Maryland, Mr. Koutrelakos taught in city public schools for two years, and then left to enter dental school, but then dropped out because it gave him ulcers, he explained in a 1990 People magazine interview.
He resumed his career in education in 1962 when he began teaching 36 fifth-graders at Cross Country Elementary School near Pikesville, who never forgot what he had done for them. Years later, they wanted to organize a reunion. At first, he balked at the idea, telling organizers, “You’re crazy. Who’d remember me?,” but they remained undeterred in their efforts.
In 1990, his former charges held the reunion with their former teacher, whom they still affectionately called Mr. K., at Cross Country Elementary in their old classroom. Suddenly, they were young again, and it was 1962-1963 again.
“As teacher, William Koutrelakos rang a hand-held bell and cried, ‘Good morning, everybody!’ Thirty-two adults squeezed into the kid-size plastic-and-metal chairs of Room 207 at Baltimore’s Cross Country Elementary School. After leading the group through the Pledge of Allegiance and one chorus of a favorite song, ‘White Coral Bells,’ Koutrelakos, 59, got down to business. ‘OK,’ he announced, ‘let’s see if you can go back 27 years.’ With that he began setting out a series of cards bearing poetry terms like ‘ode,’ ‘elegy,’ and ‘heroic verse,’” reported People magazine.
“Many had run the gauntlet of college and postgraduate courses on their way to careers as doctors, lawyers, writers, executives and scientists,” according to the profile. “But they credit their year with Mr. K. as one of the most influential of their lives. They remember him as a caring man who attended their Little League games, helped retrieve lost braces from the cafeteria garbage can and led them in Greek dances during lulls in the classroom. But most of all, he was a teacher who inspired self-confidence, tenacity and love of learning.”
It was Mr. Koutrelakos who always lent a willing ear and support when students were going through difficult personal or academic times, and they never forgot it. So much so that his former students decided to hold the reunion in 1990 in their old classroom.
“You gave ‘em an assignment, and they went overboard. To gave ‘em an idea, and they did it to perfection,” he told People.
As his students arrived from all points of the compass, Mr. Koutrelakos honored them with a picnic in the backyard of his home with specialty Greek dishes. When they presented him with a Steuben cut-glass apple, brass plaque imprinted with 36 signatures in gold and a framed citation from Gov. William Donald Schaefer, it moved him to the edge of tears.
“I’m a crybaby at heart,” he told his students, reported the magazine. “My gift, really, is seeing you here once more.”
“This class was just one of those classes that teachers dream of having,” he told The Sun at the time. “I never forgot them. They’re always in the back of your mind.”
Mr. Koutrelakos taught fifth and sixth grades for the next seven years before going into school administration. For the last 19 years of his career until retiring in 1993, he had served as principal of Elmer A. Henderson, Montebello and Brehms Lane elementary schools.
He was a longtime communicant of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation where he taught Sunday school for nearly 60 years. In the early 1970s, he and his wife along with several other parishioners, established the church’s popular annual Greek Festival, which grew to become its largest fundraiser. He also volunteered for many years in the church’s library.
“He was especially known in the Greek community for his penchant for Greek dancing, readily displayed at the festival as well as the multitude of weddings and other Greek-related gatherings in which he participated,” according to a biographical profile submitted by his family.
The Morning Sun
Mr. Koutrelakos was a lifetime member of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, which is also known as AHEPA, whose focus is raising money for scholarships for deserving students.
After moving to Ellicott City in 2001 to be closer to his children, Mr. Koutrelakos became a substitute teacher in Howard County Public Schools, working mainly at West Friendship Elementary, Bonnie Branch, Mount View and Manor Woods middle schools, where once again he forged a loyal following of students who addressed him as Mr. K. Between 2004 to 2015, during several of those years, he subbed up too 100 days.
Mr. Koutrelakos liked to prepare such Greek dishes as dolmades, stuffed vine/grape leaves, tsoureki, Greek Easter bread, mayiritsa, a Greek Easter soup, spinach pie, baklava and pastries, family members said.
An outdoorsman, he enjoyed vacationing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with his family where he could indulge his passion for hiking.
His wife, who had been nurse manager of the renal unit and the Clinical Study Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center, died in 2016.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, July 8 at his church at 23 W. Preston St., Baltimore.
Mr. Koutrelakos is survived by his son, Dr. Nicholas Koutrelakos of Sykesville; a daughter, Adrienne Koutrelakos Borowski of Ellicott City; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.