Homepage Music Credit: LightForm Productions, Santa Symphonies CD, "Christmas Time"

John Athanasios Zgouvas
October 23, 1933 - March 25, 2017

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This year has been rather difficult for me. Things have been very busy at work, which is a good thing, but, the most difficult part happened at 9:25pm on Saturday, March 25th. That night, my life changed forever. I lost my mentor, my best friend, my hero, my dad, John Athanasios Zgouvas, to Parkinson's disease. Dad loved Christmas as much as I do, maybe more. He also loved the display. He was always asking me questions about it. Have you started yet? Are you adding anything new this year? How many new songs do you have this year? Is it on yet? I thought about not doing it this year but, that thought vanished about as quick as the thought appeared. Dad would have never gone for that. So, I stood up, gathered my energies and started the setup for this year.

I want all of you to know what an amazing man my dad was and what a life he had so, I included his obituary at the end of this. This year, I'm going to dedicate the display to the memory of my dad, the man, along with my mom, that taught and showed my 3 sisters and me, the real meaning of Christmas. I love you, dad and I miss you more than you know. Oh, and don't let the "bah humbug" shirt fool ya. It's an inside family joke

 

 

Not Too Bad for A Small Town Farm Boy From Greece

John Athanasios Zgouvas, 83 of Montgomery, Alabama passed away on Saturday evening, March 25th, at home, with his wife and 4 children at his side. “The small town farm boy from Greece” as Dad described  himself, couldn’t have asked for a better exit date after losing his long, brave battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was set free, coincidentally, on the date of Greek Independence Day.

John was born October 23, 1933, just outside of Thessaloníki, Greece in the town of Levathi – population 400. This humble mountain town did not have running water or electricity but it didn’t stop one ambitious young man with a big dream to come to America. When I asked why he came to the US, he said, “America was the land of opportunity for those who worked hard; The only country where the streets are paved with gold.”

John was the son of Katina and Athanasios Zgouvas, a blacksmith and farmer. He was the eldest of 3 siblings. He told stories of hiding from the Nazis during WW2, in the woods and in caves around his village. He told us about his uncle, a Greek Orthodox Priest, that from the safety of the woods, Dad watched as the Nazis tied his uncle to a tree and executed him for hiding people. Food and money were in short supply during the days of WW2. He talked about going into the woods with his brother, to pick up sticks. They would take them back home and burn it to make charcoal. Then, walk the village, selling or bartering the charcoal for money or food.

In 1946 at the age of 13 - (just after World War II and during the turmoil of the Greek Civil War), he left his village for Thessaloníki, the 2nd largest city to Athens. He went to the American Farm School with a dream to attend college in the United States. Dad's alma mater was an independent, nonprofit educational institution and is still located in Thessaloniki, Greece. It was founded in 1904 by an American missionary, John Henry House, with a mission to serve the rural population of Greece and the Balkans.

John graduated from The American Farm School in 1953 at the age of 19. He received a Fulbright Scholarship to attend Auburn University to study mechanical engineering.

He arrived into the United States through New York’s Ellis Island, then flew on to Columbus, Georgia. There he stood in the Columbus airport, a tall handsome and somewhat nervous young man. He spoke broken English and appeared lost. A kind gentleman noticed him and offered assistance. John in his broken English and hand gestures managed to tell him that he was trying to get to Auburn University. The nice man replied: “I’m headed there myself – Would you like a ride?” Months later, John learned that the kind man was Joel Eaves, the legendary head basketball coach of Auburn University for who the basketball arena is named.

John was given a job at the Auburn Grill, washing dishes and busing tables, for room and board while in school. He lived just above the grill in an 8’ x 8’ room. The grill was where he met Gus Sideris (Mary’s older brother) who brought him to Montgomery to the Greek Orthodox Church for Sunday services. This was where he met his future bride and “the queen of my (his) heart” of over 60 years, Mary Sideris. John and Mary were married in August 1956.

In December, 1957, he graduated from Auburn’s School of Engineering as a Mechanical Engineer. John was a devout Christian and very loyal to his church and family. As a married man he continued to attend church services every Sunday at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation with his wife, Mary, and of course, his growing family.

In 1962, at the age of 29 and four children later, John founded his engineering firm - Shaver & Zgouvas, Electrical and Mechanical Consulting Engineers with the late Frank Shaver. They would become one of Alabama’s most recognized and respected engineering firms. The company grew expeditiously with hard work and loyal clients who saw something special in this young Greek man and Frank Shaver. Like Joel Eaves, Renis Jones, and the late Charles Humphries of Pearson, Humphries & Jones Architects, too, saw something special in John and gave Shaver & Zgouvas their first project. Over the years, together, they worked with many Architects on countless Alabama landmarks, commercial and public buildings including the RSA Tower in downtown Montgomery. It was an exciting time for all.

John continued to be recognized professionally. He was voted by his peers as Alabama’s 2000 Engineer of the Year for his outstanding work. John was especially proud of the numerous engineering projects awarded to him at Auburn University, through his clients. He loved doing work at the school that taught him so well. He was a true Auburn man and loved Auburn with a passion; always yelling #WarEagle loud and proud!

The small town farm boy from Greece never forgot his roots. With his generosity and love for his village, he brought electricity to his hometown in Greece. He was no longer just the son of Katina and Athanasios Zgouvas, he was the village’s most favorite son, a young man from Greece that went to America and made his village proud. Small trio bands from the village would play for him at each of his yearly, summer homecomings. He enjoyed listening to the countless cassettes of their folk music that he recorded during his visits. He listened at home, at work and ultimately, just a couple of hours before his passing.

Not too bad for a little farm boy from Greece. Zito Ellas, Dad! Hooray to you, the perfect example of a gentleman, husband, father, professional and friend. Not only were you so loved by your precious village in Greece, you were loved and touched by all who met you in your adopted country and sweet home, Alabama. You will truly be missed and never forgotten. We love you, Dad!!