If you think back to your school days and your favorite teachers, what do you remember about them? Were they gentle and approachable, friends and confidants more than disciplinarians? Or were they tough as nails and uncompromising, squeezing the best from their students with their iron wills?
According to longtime workers at H & S Bakery, co-founder Harry Tsakalos was a little bit of both, depending on whether you were interacting with him at work or outside of it.
“He was a hard worker, and he made sure you worked hard,” said Debbie Kaminiski, who started at H & S 32 years ago. “He never stood around and he didn’t want you to stand around. He was a good boss.”
Mike Boggs, who started at the bakery in 1976, noted that “Mr. Harry” was the first person to arrive in the morning and the last to leave in the evening.
Boggs also said that Tsakalos was tough, but that “he would never get anybody to do something that he wouldn’t do himself.”
“I remember when girls on the line had a problem at home,” Boggs added. “He would take their place on the line until they took care of their problems and came back.”
Back in the 70s, Boggs worked with Tsakalos checking in trucks, unloading trucks, and completing a wide variety of other tasks.
“Nobody was assigned one job,” said Boggs. “Everybody worked.”
At the beginning of September, Harry Tsakalos, who was a long-time Highlandtown resident, passed away at 93 of natural causes. He was born in Vaandergrift, Pennsylvania and moved to Baltimore with his Greek immigrant parents and eight brothers in 1936, according to an obituary provided by his grandson, Michael Tsakalos.
Harry met Isidore “Steve” Paterakis while driving a truck for Athens bakery. Harry would soon marry Steve’s daughter, Liberty Paterakis. She would be his wife for 70 years.
From the obituary:
Mr. Tsakalos and Mr. Paterakis purchased Olga and Son Bakery in East Baltimore in 1943 and reopened under the name H & S, after themselves, the “H” being Harry, and the “S” for Steve. Mr. Paterakis, his wife Kyriaki, and their son John made Italian bread by hand and baked it in a brick, flat-hearth oven. Mr. Tsakalos drove the company’s sole delivery truck, handling all wholesale and home delivery service. Upon Steve Paterakis’ passing in 1953, H & S continued to grow through the dedicated efforts of his son-in-law Harry and son John Paterakis.”
Tsakalos was extremely devoted to the Greek Orthodox Church, and he was a parishioner at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation on W. Preston St. In 1981, the Church named Harry “Archon of the Ecumenicial Patriarchate,” one of the highest honors given to laypeople. He also received various awards and recognitions of his philanthropy, which included supporting the Greek Orthodox Church in Greece as well as here.
Harry and Liberty Tsakalos had one son, Nicholas. He and his wife Jeanne had three sons, Harry, Michael, and Christopher. To date, Harry and Liberty have four great grandchildren.
Boggs said that Harry Tsakalos was respected by H & S employees because he was a strong supervisor, but was loved “because he was a typical Baltimorean.”
“He wasn’t a nose-in-the-air, I’ve-got-money type,” said Boggs. “If you were on the Avenue and saw him, and you didn’t speak because you thought there was a difference [between you and him], he would get upset about that. It hurt his feelings.”
“When his uniform was on, he was ready to roll. This was business. But outside of business, he treated you like gold,” Boggs added. “He’s going to be very much missed by all the old timers here.”
by Erik Zygmont