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editorial 1/1/01

December 29, 2000

Michael G. 'Mike' Callas



There are some people who rise from humble circumstances and make it their life's work to accumulate as much wealth as possible. And then there are those who attain material success and use it to improve their communities and the lives of those who reside there.

For more than 40 years, Michael G. "Mike" Callas has made it his business to make Washington County a better place to live, creating a record of quiet public service that a panel of distinguished citizens felt merited his selection as The Herald-Mail's "Person of the Year" for 2000.

Callas was born in Hagerstown in 1921 and worked with his father in a downtown confectionery from the time he was old enough to reach the handle that dispensed the seltzer water. Callas and his family later worked at the Valencia Restaurant across from the old Hagerstown High School on Potomac Avenue. After school, he worked from 4 p.m. until midnight, doing his homework in-between customers.

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After he graduated from high school in 1939, he won a scholarship to Johns Hopkins University, where he became president of his class and won the university's Alexander K. Barton Cup for student excellence. Then came World War II and service with the Army Corps of Engineers in the Philippines.

After the war, he worked for Norman S. Earley & Sons for eight years, opening his own firm in 1958. Slowly Callas built the business to the 200-person operation it is now. In a 1998 interview, Callas credited his parents for giving him the character not only to be honest, but to avoid becoming consumed by the desire to accumulate things and money.

In that same interview, Callas told of seeing poor women in a rundown Smithsburg church put pennies in the offering plate because it was all they could afford. He got a crew of volunteers together and renovated the church, the first of many such projects.

But Callas has given more than his sweat to the community. He's shared his business and management expertise on a variety of citizen panels, including the one that helped write a master plan for schools two years ago. He was also chairman of this year's United Way campaign.

Mike Callas doesn't do these things because of the acclaim they bring, but because he believes they're right for this community and the people who live here. In this case, the acclaim is much-deserved and we're pleased to honor him as The Herald-Mail's "Person of the Year" for 2000.

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