George Chionis, a loved and valued parishioner, is a son of the Mid-West. The youngest of six children, George was born in Chicago in 1931. He is the offspring of Greek immigrants; his mother and father, seeking opportunities in America, migrated to the middle of the country. George’s hard working father began as a meat cutter in Chicago and soon opened his own grocery store. George remembers that that the four boys in his family worked in the grocery store after school. No baseball or sports activities for them because they immediately went to work, helping their father at the store. The family thrived, and through hard work and careful savings, his father was able to purchase a beautiful home near the Greek Church in 1939 toward the end of the Great Depression. Considering the hard economic times, that was a remarkable accomplishment.
George and his older brother went to Greek school on Saturdays, and there he met a little six year old girl, named Bea. After Greek school dismissed its students, he and his brother walked this little girl to the streetcar to make sure she arrived home safely. He also recalls that Bea, the little girl, was very intelligent, and was the teacher’s pet. On the other hand, George and his brother, like most little boys their age, were not as conscientious in their studies at the Saturday school.
Bea’s mother had died in childbirth, two other siblings passed away, and finally, her father died when she was nine years old. An uncle living in California offered her a home, but Bea chose to remain with her grandmother in Chicago.
George joined the Navy in 1951 during the Korean War. When he was home on leave, he discovered that the pretty little girl from Greek school had grown up, she had achieved high honors is all four years of High School, and had been a class officer. Bea was now eighteen years old, so he asked her for a date. They went out for a hamburger and a shake, and their friendship deepened. When his mother discovered he was dating Bea, she was delighted, but said, “George, she’s a nice Greek girl, so no fooling around!”
The young couple became engaged, and when they married, George describes the reception held in the Church basement. They served an abundance of Greek pastries and a “barrel of beer.” A great party!
George took his new bride to Norfolk, Virginia where he was stationed with the Navy. When they arrived, Bea took one look at the apartment that George had rented and refused to stay there. Fortunately, they were eventually able to find a perfect place to rent. When they walked out their door at the new residence, they discovered that they were close enough to the water to wade in the Chesapeake Bay. While still in Norfolk, when they were expecting their first child, George sent Bea home to Chicago to live with his mother, and daughter Jeanne was born. Over time, their second son, Dean arrived, and later the twins, Denise and Mark, were born, completing the Chionis family.
After his military service George worked to support his growing family, at first with his father for a short time at night and on weekends. Later he was employed at National Tea Company for several years, then Ryerson Steel for five years, and finally he went into the grocery and meat business with his brother. With money saved from his military service, he found a home in Oak Lawn near the Greek Church .
George’s final entrepreneurial success came when he went into the dry cleaning business with a friend and over time purchased several dry cleaners.
Meanwhile Bea was raising four energetic children. George recalls that she made the children complete their homework at the dining room table every night after dinner. She and George would carefully check their homework. Bea was a loving and caring mother, and George insists: “You could not find a better mother than Bea.” I’m sure all four children would agree with their father.
George sold his dry cleaning stores, and in 1985 a grammar school friend invited him and Bea for a visit to Florida. George was an avid tennis player, and Bea loved to play the game as well. No better place to live and play tennis than Naples, Florida. When they moved to Naples in 1994, George recalls that he was on the court every day, sometimes more than once a day. As they settled into their Naples life, while George was watching sports—football, basketball, tennis—Bea, a talented painter, completed several beautiful paintings, some of which hang on their walls in their condo today. Bea was invited to show her paintings in an art show at the Kensington Club House nearby, and participants were so impressed with her artwork that they immediately invited her to become president of their art club. Although she was flattered, she declined their request.
The two of them attended Church at St. Katherine Orthodox Church in Naples, and later, St. Paul Orthodox Church. When Fr. Hans agreed to begin a mission Church north of Naples, they joined that small assembly of Orthodox parishioners and were able to watch the fledgling Church grow into its present day Bonita Springs location.
When Bea passed away quite suddenly on October 15, 2016, members of St. Peter’s parish were devastated at the loss of this wonderfully warm, funny, clever little woman. But no one was more sorrowful than husband, George. When he describes his feelings about Bea as the mother of his children, saying “his children could not have found a better mother,” he also emphatically insists that “he could not have found a better wife.” She truly was the love of his life. Memory Eternal for our beloved Bea.