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Callas is laid to rest

June 04, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Michael G. "Mike" Callas was Hagerstown's version of Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life," a minister told more than 400 family members and friends paying their last respects Thursday.

The Rev. D. Stuart Dunnan said he used to think that Stewart's movies, which he watched as a child, represented a nostalgia for an America that no longer exists.

"We in Hagerstown know differently because we know such men who have lived such lives," Dunnan said.

Like George Bailey, Callas overcame obstacles to achieve success, Dunnan said.

The son of Greek immigrants earned a full scholarship to Johns Hopkins University and then served in World War II before coming back to settle in his hometown, where he founded Callas Contractors.

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"Mike achieved his success through a combination of hard work, talent, ambition and grit," Dunnan said in a eulogy delivered at St. John's Episcopal Church on South Prospect Street.

The 90-minute service Thursday included gospel readings, hymns and a full communion.

So many people attended that the church had to pipe video of the service into an overflow room.

Callas was active in his business and in the community until his death Monday at age 83.

"He worked hard and he never stopped," Dunnan said.

Family members have said Callas was stricken by a cerebral hemorrhage while vacationing in North Carolina.

Callas' casket was draped in white linen with a purple sash cross and positioned in front of the altar.

Dunnan said Callas shared his prosperity with his employees and the community by working on projects for schools, the YMCA, Boy Scouts and United Way.

Callas helped raise money for Children's Village in Hagerstown, a fire safety education center.

He valued his family and, although he had no children of his own, became "father and grandfather to a whole community of children."

Callas was a man with failings and failures "just like the rest of us," Dunnan said.

"Unfair, opinionated, dare I say stubborn at times," he said, drawing a laugh from the otherwise solemn crowd. "Even ridiculous. He did not suffer fools."

Callas was the first to admit his shortcomings, but he never stopped trying to do good deeds, Dunnan said.

The best way to honor his memory is to follow his example, said the Rev. Scott Bellows.

Callas was a devoted Christian and former Greek Orthodox Church member who joined St. John's Episcopal Church about six years ago, Bellows said.

Callas served on the search committee that brought Bellows to Hagerstown.

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