Constantine J. Skedros would drive along Salt Lake City streets, pointing to homes where Greek families lived and recounting in great detail their stories. He knew the names, dramas, tragedies and triumphs of the immigrants and how that all connected with the larger American world.
Skedros collected all those stories into a single volume, 100 Years of Faith and Fervor: A History of the Greek Orthodox Church Community of Greater Salt Lake City, Utah, 1905-2005, and dedicated it to "those early Greek immigrant men and women, the pioneers, who had the vision and determination to create our community."
That volume will be among Skedros' lasting legacies. The 89-year-old died Sunday in Salt Lake City after a short illness.
Skedros was born to immigrant parents in 1923. His father died when young Con was 17, leaving the teen to become the family breadwinner, taking care of his mother and younger brother.
He didn't hesitate.
Skedros served in the U.S. military during World War II, seeing action in England, France and Germany, according to the biography in his book.
After the war, he earned his bachelor's degree in English and history from the University of Utah, then returned for a master's degree in history. He taught history at West High in Salt Lake City for 37 years before retiring in 1987.
"My dad had high expectations and was strict but not unbending, not rigid like other Greek fathers of our contemporaries," his daughter, Angela Kithas, recalled Monday. "Teaching high school and Sunday school, he understood kids and how it felt to be a kid."
Skedros championed his young students, pushing them to work harder and move forward. It all would work out, he told them. At one point, the history teacher with the Greek surname had a young Andrew Valdez in his class. Skedros urged Valdez never to give up, assuring him that he had lots of ability.
Years later, Skedros received in the mail an announcement of Valdez's law school graduation, with a handwritten note, saying, "I made it." Valdez is now a juvenile court judge in Salt Lake County.
Skedros had a little band of brothers who met every morning for coffee at the Pinon Market and Cafe on Salt Lake City's east bench, his daughter said. He continued to be a storyteller to the end, happily greeting friends, former students and Greek parishioners.
"He was not a Zorba-the-Greek type," Kithas said. "He was a quieter type, with a big mind, who thought about the big picture, and thinking ahead."
Constantine J. Skedros
Born March 9, 1923
Died Nov. 11, 2012