Bill Papastergiadis OAM pays tribute to Pontian community leader Peter Jasonides

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President of the Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM), Bill Papastergiadis OAM has paid tribute to Pontian community leader Peter Jasonides following his death on Tuesday, July 2 after a long battle with illness.

‘He will live on in us all’

peter jasonides

I didn’t know that my most recent exchange with Peter that ended with “I love you” would be our last. If I were to script an ending, then I wouldn’t change one thing. Our respective text messages, including this latest hour-long conversation regarding a government grant sought by Pontiaki Estia, always made you feel respected and cared for.

It’s strange how a man who was troubled by poor health in the last few years, was always the most positive one in our conversations. I’d leave the hospital visits feeling supported and loved. Yet it was Peter that was facing mortality. 

Peter was a tower of strength to me and to so many people not only in Australia but around the world. His laughter roared during our conversations. In my last visit to the Box Hill hospital, I said to him as he lay in bed, “is it my imagination or are you just incredibly strong willed?” Peter, with a beaming smile and with pride, replied, “Oh, I recently did a psych test and I aced it. I was off the charts in regard to my mental resilience. The doctors were amazed!!!”

That was Peter. Not matter how he felt, and even when he was confined to a bed in hospital for a year, he nevertheless still made the rest of us feel strong. 

Peter’s input and impact in our daily lives was immense. He was a big part of the Greek Community of Melbourne. His language school leased three levels of our Greek Centre. When we were building our Centre, Nick Koukouvitakis called him and implored him to relocate his company to our building. Peter replied to Nick, “I’ve already thought about supporting your organisation and I had made this decision myself some time ago to lease floors in Greek Centre.” A patriot in every sense of the word.

But Peter’s assistance of our organisation was not just financial. Each weekend, his company donated one floor of his leased area to the Greek Community of Melbourne so as to allow to use it as part of our Greek School program.

Peter didn’t just help us. Selflessly, with his wife Helen, he helped countless people who migrated from Greece by either reducing their schooling fees or just simply waiving those fees altogether. He made no “song and dance about his generosity.” He just helped. 
I could comfortably write a book on our relationship. I always listened carefully to him. Peter was a polymath and an intellectual giant. His knowledge of the history of our diaspora in Australia and of Greece was tremendous. However, he excelled in his knowledge on the history of the Pontus and the Pontian people. My brother and I, by phone, recently spent two hours talking on the role of Pontians in Greek politics and their contribution to world civilisation. Nikos mentioned the figure of Cardinal Bessarion who played a key role in the Italian Renaissance. Peter spoke at length about Bessarion’s upbringing in Trabzon. The reality was I just listened as I was in the presence of giants who carried this history and its associated trauma comfortably in their souls. My only contribution to the discussion was at the end of it when I remarked, “Peter, please make sure you document yours and your relatives’ histories. I don’t want this knowledge to be lost.”

My fear of losing this knowledge was misplaced. Peter will continue to live inside us all and will remain a part of our unique fabric in this part of the universe.

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