James Patargeas was born on February 4, 1936 in the tiny rural community of Palaiovracha (Paleovracha), one of many small settlements and villages that continue to dot the mountainous and semi-mountainous landscape of Central Greece. Little “Taki”, the firstborn child of father Gust and Mother Constantine, would soon begin the adventure of his lifetime when he and his parents left their hometown hamlet and set sail aboard the SS Normandie for the New World, disembarking at Ellis Island before continuing, first to Hammond, Indiana and, soon thereafter, to Chicago.
Months after James’ 7th birthday, Gust tragically passed away, leaving behind three young children – James, younger brother Nick, and Vicki, the youngest – and Constantine, a widow and mother who was still in the process of becoming fully conversant and comfortable with her new country’s language and culture. Thus began a lifetime of shouldering responsibilities and overcoming obstacles…yet, amid all the challenges, one also leavened with a good measure of intellectual curiosity, travel, and leisure.
James learned English while attending elementary school, which enabled him to act for many years as an interpreter and translator for his mother when the need arose. As he continued through elementary school, he also became acquainted with the world of work, at a rather younger age than most.
When not working at the neighborhood grocery store or otherwise helping family, James managed to put enough time and effort into his studies to graduate from first Hyde Park High School and then Chicago City Junior College (now Kennedy-King College). One of his teachers – we believe at the latter institution – suggested that he consider applying to Blackburn College (Carlinville, IL) as a prospective enrollee in their Work Program in order to continue pursuing his academic interest in microbiology. However, James opted to remain closer to home.
James then proceeded to finish his undergraduate study at Chicago Teachers College (now Chicago State University), completing his degree and earning his teaching certificate – even with the complication of seeing his final academic year interrupted by his induction into the US Army for a two-year tour of duty. However, despite having been less than enamored of the timing, his days in uniform weren’t unremittingly desultory. Indeed, much to the astonishment of one of his sergeants (“What? YOU two?”), James was one of two classmates to do sufficiently well on a particular aptitude test to have been invited to apply for admission to officer candidate school. While he ultimately decided against pursuing a career in the military, his time stationed overseas did give him the opportunity to see a good part of Europe, including areas of France, Germany, the UK, Denmark, Italy, and Greece – and, perhaps, more.
Much to James’ surprise, Uncle Sam so valued his contributions to the nation’s defense that, shortly after having completed his undergraduate degree, he was recalled for a 2nd,
somewhat shorter, stint of active duty following the Berlin Wall crisis. Afterward, he began what would be a decades-long career as a teacher at Leif Ericson Elementary School (now Scholastic Academy) in Chicago, some years as a regular classroom teacher, others concentrating more heavily on mathematics instruction, and several as the de facto network admin of the school’s computer lab.
Roughly a decade or so into his teaching career, he decided that he wanted to earn an advanced degree while 1) enrolled as a full-time student and 2) continuing to work full- time, which he’d been urged not to attempt by at least one program’s academic advisor. However, his stubborn streak found positive expression here as dogged determination, as he enrolled at Loyola University of Chicago as a full-time graduate student and earned a Masters in Education…all while continuing to teach full-time. Over the following two+ decades, he completed coursework at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Chicago covering the teaching of advanced concepts in mathematics to elementary school students; he also studied computer repair, operating systems, and networking at Oakton Community College.
It must also be noted that James was far from averse to manual labor when the occasion required, having worked as a paper handler in the printing press rooms of several of Chicago’s daily newspapers during multiple summers to supplement his young family’s income.
Ever the restless soul, just over four years after having retired from teaching during the summer of 1998, James obtained employment with the Illinois Department of Employment Security. He finally decommissioned his working shoes for good before the end of 2007. He remained quite active in retirement, both enjoying regular, extended walks and frequenting the area’s museums and other attractions, until having been slowed by health concerns in recent years.
James also managed to find time to marry, father a son, and maintain friendships and relationships. He was a son, brother, husband, father, uncle, friend, student, soldier, teacher, and colleague, whose remarkable journey came to an end the evening of April 13, 2023. He was predeceased by his father Gust Patargeas, mother Constantine Patargeas, and brother Nick G Patargeas, and is survived by former wife Mary Patargeas, son Nick J Patargeas, sister Victoria Manos, brother-in-law George Manos, nephew Michael Manos, niece Julie Henry, niece Connie Seals, and numerous grandnieces and grandnephews.
Thus was this good man’s life.
Visitation will be held Tuesday, April 25, 2023 from 10:00 a.m. until time of Funeral Service 12:00 p.m. Noon at Nelson Funeral Home 820 W. Talcott Rd., Park Ridge, IL 60068. The Funeral Service may be viewed live or recorded at Memory Eternal’s Facebook page. Interment will follow at Elmwood Cemetery. In lieu of sending flowers, please consider a donation to your favorite charity instead.
May his memory be eternal.