Petros Pantazopoulos

RIP 1943 - 2003

In public life we come across people from all walks of life, many of whom in their own unique and particular way leave a lasting impression on us and on the community that they choose to serve.

In my electorate of Calwell, one such individual was Petros Pantazopoulos, who passed away suddenly on New Year's Day this year. Petros was born on 1 April 1943 in a small town near Kalamata in the southern mainland of Greece. Like thousands of other Greek migrants, Petros arrived in Australia in the early 1960s seeking a better and secure future. Like many of his Greek compatriots, he settled in the high-rise flats in Collingwood in Melbourne's inner north before moving to the outer north-western suburbs of Melbourne and settling into the suburb of Coolaroo. It was here that he would settle with his wife—his childhood sweetheart, Antonia—and together they would raise two very bright, warm and thoughtful children, George and Helen.

Petros was always motivated by the desire to help those who were often unable to help themselves. He donated himself to community life without reward but, rather, to simply offer support and advice to those who needed it. He spoke fluent English and had excellent knowledge of his community structures. It was no surprise therefore that those who were not as familiar with the English language would seek Petros's assistance, and he was always happy to help. But it was his involvement with the Upfield soccer club that gave him the greatest satisfaction. His other great passion was politics. Petros was dedicated to the Upfield soccer club, which he had been involved with since its inception in 1982. In his latter years, he would become an effective and successful secretary of that local soccer club, and in 2003 he took its seniors team to its first premiership in 10 years.

Petros was an almost daily visitor to my electorate office, and it was this premiership win that was arguably his favourite topic of conversation in the latter half of last year. To say that this brought Petros an incredible amount of joy would be quite the understatement, and it certainly brightened up what had been unfortunately a sad couple of years for Petros and his family. In 2002, Petros and Antonia tragically lost their much loved son George to cancer. This of course created a void in Petros's life—one that I am sure that, try as he might, he was unable to fill. As much as he adored his three delightful grandchildren, each of whom looked up to him as their big best friend, the emptiness associated with his son's loss remained. However, his role within the local community continued as always, and his commitment to the maxim of community spirit remained as strong as ever. He also remained a loyal comrade—if I may be permitted to call him that—working hard for the Labor Party locally. As I said earlier, politics was always his passion. In fact, it was in his role as an active and devoted activist that I first got to know Petros in the early 1990s. His work and passion for the Australian Labor Party were undying, and his assistance at all levels of campaigning will forever be appreciated.

Petros was one of those rare, street-wise political activists. You could always rely on him to tell you a few home truths, and that is what I admired most about him. He was up-front and almost always correct in his assessment and advice. His loss is one that has been felt by a large number of people, as was evidenced by the huge turnout at his funeral, with local, state and federal levels of government and a host of community based organisations represented. He was a constant source of advice and counsel, not only to me but also to my staff, who were always available for a chat on issues of the day. Petros will be widely missed, and I want to take this opportunity to once again pass on my sympathy to his wife, Antonia; his daughter, Helen, and her husband, Alfred; and his daughter-in-law, Mary. Petros Pantazopoulos was an individual who touched many people's lives, including mine and my husband's. He was our friend, and we will continue to be grateful for his support and commitment and will strive to do him proud.