Honorary SAE (World Council of Hellenes Abroad) President and prominent member of the Greek diaspora, Andrew A. Athens, passed away in Chicago on Thursday at the age of 91.

Despite his poor health recently, he continued to attend events of the diaspora on issues of national interest.

He was honoured for his activity for overseas Greeks by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the governments of Greece and Cyprus, the US Congress and was widely known by overseas Greeks as “a Patriarch”.

In his capacity as President of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad, (SAE), Athens traveled all over the world promoting issues concerning overseas Greeks.

Andrew A. Athens (Andreas Athanasoulas) was born in 1922 in Chicago, USA to immigrant parents. The name of his father was Aristides. His outstanding service to the Greek Community and the Orthodox Church placed him among the leading figures of the Greek Diaspora.

He served as President of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) since its founding in 1995 and until December 2006 when the 6th World Assembly of SAE unanimously proclaimed him president emeritus.

He was distinguished in WWII battlefronts as well as in the post-war effort for the reconstruction of Europe. As a US Army Captain he fought alongside the allied forces in Europe and the Middle East. After the war he was honored with the Bronze Star Medal and the US Army Commendation Medal, while he was commended by the Hungarian government for his contribution to the country’s rebuilding.

His successful business career was launched in 1950 with the founding of the Metron Steel Corporation, a particularly successful industry in the American Midwest that even today is one of the largest steelworks in the USA.

Athens became involved in Greek community affairs at an early age. He put his mark on all major initiatives in support of Hellenism and Orthodoxy in the United States and elsewhere. He led the efforts and successes of the Greeks abroad both under his capacity as a founding member or as a president of Greek community organizations and institutes.

He played a leading role in every struggle launched for the rights of the Greeks, for justice and peace in Greece and Cyprus, for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and other Orthodox Patriarchates and for the Greeks who are in dire need, like those living in former Soviet Union countries, Albania and elsewhere. He occupied leadership offices in roughly 50 Greek community organizations and chambers of commerce in the US, Greece, Belgium and other countries.

Immediately after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, he played a leading role in establishing a Greek Lobby in Washington and founded the United Hellenic American Congress (UHAC), an organization with notable accomplishments and presence he still presides over. In this effort is assisted by the Washington-based National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes (CEH) he has co-founded.

He is the “Leadership 100” Endowment Fund president emeritus. Athens was its founder and first president of the board (1986-1996). He has co-founded and chaired the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). For two decades (1974-1995) he was the president of the Council of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America. He is the co-founder of the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce and served as its president from 1991 to 1997.

Andrew Athens has won international recognition for his service to the community. Foreign governments, Orthodox Church Patriarchates, charitable organizations and production sector representatives around the world have honored him with over 42 awards, medals and distinctions.

He received the Greek State’s Gold Cross of the Order of the Phoenix (1977), the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Award (1977), the Cypriot Republic Grand Cross of the Order of Merit (1997), the US Congressional Medal of Honor (1993), the Georgia Republic Supreme Medal (2001), the Ukraine Parliament Medal (2003) and many more. In 1979, he was declared Knight of the Order of the Crown in Belgium.

He is the “Archon” of the Great Church of Christ, an Ecumenical Patriarchate honorary title conferred upon individuals honouring them for their service and dedication to the Church. He has also been honoured by other Orthodox Patriarchates and Churches for his tireless efforts defending religious freedom and human rights. He has received, among others, the Medal of the Supreme Taxiarch of the Holy Sepulchre, the “Athenagoras” Human Rights Award and the Gold Cross of the Holy Cross Seminary bestowed by Archbishop Iakovos.

In May 1979, he received the Church of Cyprus St Barnabas Gold Medal in recognition of his service to the people of Cyprus.

Over the past decade, since 1995 when the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) was founded Andrew Athens has traveled to all continents covering a distance of millions of miles in an effort to unite and strengthen the Greek communities abroad.

In 1997, he founded Hellenicare, a Primary Health Care Initiative and humanitarian assistance project which constitutes a lifeline of hope and example of selfless service to the human being. A total of seven medical care centres, established in former Soviet countries (Georgia, Ukraine, Armenia) and Albania, offer free medical services to people of Greek and non Greek descent.

Andrew Athens is survived by his wife, two children, a son and a daughter, and four grandchildren.

Leave a Reply