A few weeks ago, Eleftheria Papatolios Richard, known to her family and friends as Loula, along with her husband Bill, and their two children, Leo, age three, and Vanessa, age seven, were enjoying an extended Valentines weekend visiting with Bill’s family in Muncy, Pennsylvania.
On the second day of their trip, tragedy struck this family. “We had spent the day running around, and in the evening when we went to bed, that was it. Bill went to sleep and never woke up,” said Loula. Bill had suffered a massive heart attack.
Since then, the grieving family has experienced an extended outpouring from friends and relatives. The emotional support has helped, but the devastating loss is still fresh in the family’s minds as Loula has been working on getting the kids’ lives back on track.
Bill grew up in the small town of Muncy just outside of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the home of the Little League World Series. “Bill loved baseball and Premier League soccer. He was also a Philadelphia sports fan”. Loula and Bill met at work, sixteen years ago after Loula had graduated from college. They were married for ten years, “Everyone liked Bill. He was warm, a family man, and opened his heart to everyone, and treated all kids like his own. He was easy to talk to. He left way too early,” said Loula.
The loss of Bill had also left this now family of three with some economic difficulties, including medical, funeral, and living expenses costs. But to their surprise, some shining stars have come to help. Her brother-in-law, Tim Panaski, led the way by launching a GoFundMe fundraiser, “Little Ones in Distress-Missing Daddy.” The fundraiser has been a success, relieving some of the burdens, making this difficult time more bearable.
Also, several Greek organizations from the Delaware Valley have come on board to help the family. The Philoptochos Society of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Upper Darby and Hellenic Hearts, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization created to establish a need-based safety net for Hellenes in the Greater Philadelphia area, have also come forward to assist.
Both these organizations have established themselves in the community. One with a long history, the other a relative newcomer, but sharing the same goals, supporting Greek-Americans in times of need. And with Loula’s deep ties to the area and the church, the word got out about this family. Her parents immigrated from Kozani, Greece, to Upper Darby, and Loula is a first-generation Greek-American, who was born and raised in this historic community, as well as baptized and married at St. Demetrios. Her children attend Greek school at the church.
While Bill will be missed, some of the burdens from his loss can be lifted with support from the community and family as his loved ones carry on. “The outpour of donations is amazing, thank you,” says Loula.