THE REV. MENELAOS Papageorgiou is 88 years of age, but that isn't stopping him from continuing God's work even though he'll be in Cyprus not Eastern Ohio.
He has served at the Church of the Life-Giving Fountain, Zoodohos Peghe, in Martins Ferry and in other Eastern Ohio areas for 45 years.
Although church officials wanted him to continue as a priest in Cyprus during his retirement, he decided not to do so but he plans to help out in the church there.
"God offered me this privilege," he said.
Papageorgiou added that his wife, Erasmia, has health problems so he'll also be involved in her care She has a severe case of arthritis, and the couple plans to live in an apartment near their daughter. The priest and his wife also have a son who resides in Chicago.
Although Papageorgiou is a native of Cyprus, he also mentioned how much he likes this part of Ohio and its people.
"I love the people, and they love me," he said, adding they have had a nice cooperative relationship for so many years. "I have no enemies."
Speaking of the area itself, Papageorgiou said, "We love almost everything here - it's a quiet, small city, not too much traffic."
But more than anything, he reiterated how he likes the people.
Papageorgiou has been a Greek Orthodox priest for 65 years and served in that capacity for 10 years in Cyprus and 10 in Athens before coming to the United States.
Prior to his arrival in the Buckeye State, the Cyprus native was in Wichita, Kan., for a couple of months, but he wanted to serve a larger parish so he was assigned to Martins Ferry. His work, however, wasn't limited to that city as he also served those of the Greek Orthodox faith in places such as Somerset, Zanesville, Cambridge, Marietta and Yorkville.
Papageorgiou told of conducting services in Cambridge on Saturdays and in Zanesville on Sunday afternoons.
Also, for three years, he was priest in both Martins Ferry and Wheeling. A merger had been discussed, but that never came to fruition.
When he first came to this area, the church served about 100 families, but in a short time, he had increased that to 500. The priest indicated he wanted to make a strong church community.
"I'm very proud of it going from 100 families to 500," Papageorgiou added.
Among the church activities conducted over the years by the priest is Greek School with emphasis placed on the Greek language. Originally, it was held Fridays and Saturdays in Tiltonsville, Martins Ferry and Bellaire, but he had conducted only in Martins Ferry in recent years.
Like many other churches, the Greek Orthodox churches in this area have seen a decline in membership in recent years. Members are getting older, and younger people are moving away to cities. "We've lost many families," Papageorgiou said.
He did, however, praise the faithfulness of the older generation.
It's not surprising that Papageorgiou became a priest. His father was a priest and prepared him for the priesthood from an early age.
Emphasis also was placed on music as singing is part of a Greek Orthodox service, and Papageorgiou liked learning the music. He went to say how people love music.
Papageorgiou's final service at the Church of the Life-Giving Fountain was last Sunday, and he was pleased that so many people attended, not only from the immediate area but also from places such as Cleveland and Columbus.
He commended the leaders in the church for their work and friendship before adding, "I'd like to thank all of them - the parishioners, friends and people who live in this town. They're been very kind and very close to me for so many years."
Pokas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.