WASHINGTON, D.C., January 18, 2012 – Ed Derwinski, one of America’s greatest philhellenes, died on Sunday, January 15, 2012. He was 85 years old. He was a Chicago, Illinois Member of the US House of Representatives for 24 years, where he served as of the top Republican (Ranking Member) on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and was involved in the Turkish Arms Embargo. He continued to be a strong advocate for Hellenic issues and the Hellenic community in his subsequent positions as Undersecretary of State for National Security Affairs in the Reagan Administration and as America’s first Secretary of Veterans Affairs in the George H.W. Bush Administration. Even in retirement, he was an active advocate for Hellenism, serving until recently as Chairman of the Board of the Hellenic American Heritage Council (HAHC), an organization of major American and Greek companies working to help build stronger ties between the US and Greece.
He was like a brother to Andrew A. Athens, the former WWII veteran, steel magnate, President of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE), National Chairman of the United Hellenic American Committee (UHAC) and founder and President of Hellenicare. Derwinski was also very close to former US Senator Paul Sarbanes with whom he served in the US House of Representatives.
“Ed was considered a great friend by many in the Hellenic community, including us. All his friends and admirers will miss deeply his extraordinary charm, humor, intelligence and willingness to help at any cost. Hellenism has lost a great friend,” said Andy Manatos, President of Manatos & Manatos.
Paul Sarbanes said, “Ed Derwinski was always a firm and fast friend of our community. He served our nation with great dedication and distinction. We deeply regret his passing. Axios!”
Andy Athens said, “Ed was my Congressman and he worked closely with us since Cyprus was invaded in 1974 and Archbishop Iakovos asked me to organize our national community so that we could have a voice in Washington. Through every position he held in and out of government he never stopped giving us invaluable guidance and assistance. Ed was a great friend and will be greatly missed.”
“Ed’s devotion to Hellenic issues reached its apex when he injured his skyrocketing career for a Hellenic issue. As Undersecretary of State he strongly opposed the anti-Cypriot inclinations of the foreign policy establishment in the Reagan Administration. Following his strong stand, he was moved aside in other major foreign policy issues,” said Andy Manatos.
As the highest – ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, he played an important role on Hellenic issues. He was key to the history-making Turkish Arms Embargo. It was a Congressional override of the Nixon Administration’s refusal to adhere to American law, which required the termination of American arms shipments to any country that used them aggressively.“His extraordinary devotion to the Hellenic community and his involvement was so deep that many considered him to be a Hellene. For example, one time when an Ambassador introduced then-Assistant Secretary of State Barbara Pope as the highest – ranking Greek-American in the Bush Administration, Senator Sarbanes, who was the next to speak, admitted to the audience that he almost objected to the Ambassador’s claim. Senator Sarbanes said, ‘when Barbara was introduced as the highest – ranking Greek – American, at first I thought – no, that is wrong. Ed Derwinski is a cabinet member,” said Mike Manatos, Vice President of Manatos & Manatos and Executive Director of HAHC, Chaired by Derwinski.
“As a final testament to his Hellenism, Secretary Derwinski’s family has asked that a Greek Orthodox priest participate in the funeral service and they will be holding the celebration of his life after the funeral at a Greek restaurant,” said Mike Manatos.
Visitation will be this Friday, January 20 from 3:00 – 8:00 p.m. at Michael Coletta Sons Funeral Home (544 W. 31st St., Chicago). Mass will be celebrated on Saturday, January 21 beginning at 11 a.m. at Holy Family Church (1080 W. Roosevelt Road, Chicago).
For more details, please see the obituary in the Chicago Tribune.