Saturday, November 5, 2016

Farewell, My Friend

Nicholaos Artemios Nazos, aka Kromydas, 2 June 1934—28 Oct 2016

Jeff––Saturday

There is no such thing as an easy memorial to write, but this one’s nigh on impossible for me.

How do I console a place that’s lost its fiercest link to the essence of what it once was?

How will the children of Mykonos learn that what they see all about them is not what made their island home what it is today, now that the truest teller of its tales is gone? 

Who will inspire its youth with a genuine appreciation of a past long gone to keep their island’s moral compass firmly fixed on true north as they battle blindly forward against seductive, relentless siren songs?

Nicholaos Aremios Nazos—known across the island by his nickname, Kromydas (meaning onions)—died at 82 years of age on October 28, 2016, a day described in my last Saturday’s post as the Greek National holiday of “OXI Day.” A fitting—albeit far too soon—final resting day for this dedicated son of Mykonos, for it represents the sort of courage, spirit, and unwavering perseverance that made him the man so many knew and loved. 

In 1940, when Niko was six, Greece refused to surrender to the German-Italian war machine and he faced five years of starvation and occupation horrors; from ten to thirteen he lived through the Greek Civil War (1946-1949); and in his thirties, Greece’s Junta dictatorship years of 1967-74.

I shall not be so presumptuous as to attempt to chronicle his life or record the impact he had on so many, but his ever-present black fisherman’s cap (often with a sprig of basil tucked behind his ear), cigarette in hand, and mischievous smile graced the harbor front every morning and found the perfect café table each evening along the island’s most heavily trafficked lanes. In between, he somehow managed to do all the right things to create and support a truly wonderful family.

At the funeral a mutual friend described Niko as, “a restless spirit, always one step ahead, stoic, and independent, but above all decent, with a moral code that made us all proud to be his friend.”


I couldn’t agree more.

It seems as if I’ve always known Niko, but perhaps that’s because if you were around him, you couldn’t miss him, any more than you could a bright splash of color on a whitewashed wall.

We first spent a lot of time together talking a dozen years ago, when I wrote my debut Andreas Kaldis novel, Murder in Mykonos.  The abandoned barite mines along the northern edge of the island featured prominently in my story and Niko had worked in those mines in the 1950s.  He told me how he’d hike in over the mountains each Sunday night with enough food to last him until Saturday, when he’d hike back to town. He told me a lot of stories about those years, and his words found their way into my work through the attitudes and traits of many of my characters.

He’d survived Mykonos’ impoverished days, seen it in transition when he served among the island’s first taxi drivers, and ultimately rode the wave of its building boom to prosperity by establishing a hardware and contractor supply business.

Niko’s life centered on family (his wife Michele, their sons Artemis and Alexis, and daughter Virginia), and by far his greatest joy came each weekend, when he and his wife Michele hosted all of their grandchildren overnight.  But his generosity of spirit extended far beyond his immediate family, as exemplified each July 26th in the Nazos family panayeri honoring Saint Panteleimon, a celebration filled with food, wine, dancing, and music, drawing waves of hundreds of locals and tourists to its dusk-to-dawn festivities amid his gardens.


Niko took great pride in his gardens, which many regarded as the finest vegetable garden on Mykonos—Exhibit A being the above pumpkin. As one who benefited from his gifts of fresh produce, count me on that team. 

Niko came by his penchant for produce naturally, for he inherited it the same as he did his nickname—from ancestors so skilled at farming a particular type of onion revered by the ladies of the town, that the Kromydas name for the onion began a nickname of pride, burnished brightly by its most recent designee.

Niko lived a life steeped in his island’s traditions, seeing loyalty among family and friends a treasure beyond value. He believed the young should know that in shaping the future of Mykonos they must not forget to honor, celebrate, and maintain their roots to its past. To Niko, traditions mattered.  He was a true Mykonian.

May your legacy be rewarded, my friend.

God rest your sweet soul.

—Jeff



13 comments:

  1. So sorry to learn of your friend's passing, Jeff. I suspect your words would have touched him deeply.

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    1. Thanks, Bruce. He probably would have liked me to add a few things about his irresistible charm. :)

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  2. The bitter-sweetness of life, love, and friendship. Such a wonderful thing, and yet so horribly short. I'm sorry for your and Mykonos' loss.

    On another note, I've decided that when you're on Mykonos, I'll refer to you as JeSMY, and when you're in the US as JeSUS. You came to Portland with Tim (and lovely Barabara, of course) almost a exactly a year ago, which leaves me waiting for the second coming of JeSUS.

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    1. He's waiting for his bus ticket.

      I bet you thought I was going to run with this very interesting riff, but my better judgment took over...for once.

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  3. Deep condolences, Jeff. It is a great thing, given the way Mykonos has changed, that so many people recognized the true value of a man such as he.

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    1. Thanks, Annamaria. Yes, he'll be greatly missed, but to be honest, I think he was frustrated at the way things were headed.

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  4. rest in peace kir-Niko! an old man with a young soul... lucky to be his friend dear Jeff!

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  5. He sounds like a fine friend, Jeff -- someone it was a pleasure and a privilege to have known.

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    1. Absolutely, Zoë. Sort of like a male version of you. :)

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  6. I'm not sure people like this actually pass away, they just move on elsewhere and their personality resonates long and loud, in his family, his friends, this blog, his island and the geography that he made his own. A life to be celebrated for sure!

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