To many Sacramentans, Eugene Fotos was the gregarious fellow who manned the microphone at the annual Greek Food Festival, while others knew him as a compassionate man always ready to help someone in need.
The son of Greek immigrants, Fotos made his living as a real estate appraiser, but he devoted much of his life to serving his church and Sacramento’s Greek community.
He died April 17 of congestive heart failure, said his son, Cary Fotos. He was 84.
A member of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Eugene Fotos was general chairman of the Greek Food Festival when it launched in 1964 and he filled that role for seven more years. He handled publicity for the event, and served as the festival’s master of ceremonies and announcer for more than four decades.
“People often called him Mr. Festival,” said his son, noting that he always wanted to make sure people had a good time.
The Rev. James Retelas, priest at Annunciation church and Fotos’ second cousin, recalled that Fotos personally delivered Greek pastries to radio stations and other news outlets to help ensure that the annual festival was well-publicized.
“He cared little about what people thought of him,” Cary Fotos said, “but he cared what people thought of our Greek community.”
The festival outgrew the church facilities on Alhambra Boulevard and moved to the Sacramento Community Center. This year, it will return to its home base, Retelas said. The congregation recently completed construction of a new social hall, classrooms and administrative offices.
“Eugene was on every building committee going back to the 1960s,” Retelas said, noting that he lived to see completion of the new facilities a couple of months ago.
Eugene Fotos was born Sept. 4, 1932, to Dan and Despina “Despo” Fotos, and was the eldest of six children. His father, born Dionysius Fotopoulos, came to the United States in 1909. He was unable to spell the name for a recruiting officer when he sought to join the U.S. Army during World War I, and a companion told the recruiter, “His name is Dan Fotos.” He later took that as his official name.
The family started a laundry and linen business, Alhambra Laundry and Fotos Linen Supply.
Eugene Fotos’ brother Demetre Fotos recalled that his parents welcomed people into their large home, including some who were not relatives but needed a place to stay. A few became members of the household and lived with the family for years.
“One of our old priests used to call my parents’ house a ‘monastery’ because it was always open to everybody,” he said. “Eugene more or less carried on that tradition.”
Cary Fotos said his father also served as a Greek language interpreter in court cases.
He cared little about what people thought of him, but he cared what people thought of our Greek community.
Son Cary Fotos
He also was an avid photographer who insisted on recording church events and activities involving friends and family. He always made duplicate copies of photos to present to those he photographed and their families. He especially liked to create panoramic photos of large groups, taking overlapping shots that he would piece together to create one large photo. He never asked to be reimbursed for the photos he provided, said his brother.
“He’d say, ‘You need a record,’ ” said Demetre Fotos.
Fotos was known for his outgoing nature and was a “fabulous speaker,” his son said, noting that he once stepped in to conduct a memorial service at the church when the priest was absent.
“He was a great talker,” Demetre Fotos said, and he started at a young age. “When he was 1 1/2 years old, my parents would put him on the table and he would recite poetry.”
He was known for his ability to make people feel welcome. If he spotted someone new at church, he would invite them home for dinner, said his son.
A 1954 graduate of Sacramento Sate College with a degree in business, Eugene Fotos tried selling insurance, but he couldn’t make a go of it. He couldn’t bring himself to persuade someone to buy a high-priced policy when he knew less expensive coverage would be adequate, his brother recalled.
“He always worried about everybody else,” Demetre Fotos. “He was not afraid to stand up for other people. He’d just fight like heck, but not for himself.”
Eugene Fotos is survived by his wife of almost 60 years, Agnes Fotos; sons Dan Fotos and Cary Fotos, and daughter Dessie Pantages, all of Sacramento; and two granddaughters. In addition to his brother Demetre Fotos, he is survived by sisters Mary Stathos and Antonia Fotos, all of Sacramento.
A Trisagion service will be held at 7 p.m. Sunday and a funeral service at 10 a.m. Monday, both at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, 600 Alhambra Blvd.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church Building Fund, 600 Alhambra Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95816.