I still remember vividly the first time I met Fotios Karamitos, the beloved father of our board member Michael.

It was over 10 years ago and it was a hot summer’s day

Our team had been recently been elected to lead the Greek Community of Melbourne. Nick and Stelios Koukouvitakis had organised a lunch at their house. It was mostly friends and families of the Koukouvitakis family. They are a tribe. Fiercely loyal and generous without fault

Our election 10 years ago was a bruising affair. Letters in the press and fierce campaigning by both teams. We had prevailed, but only just.

I arrived not knowing many people. As I stood on a spot on my own under shade from the fierce summer sun and looking for a friendly face, I was approached by a man with broad shoulders and an even larger smile. I had never met him before.

He introduced himself as Michael’s father and said words I’ll never forget. Fotios said to me, “Vasili, l am here for you. We all support you. Call me for whatever you need. We have faith in you and your team. Remember, you are not on your own.”

I have met thousands of people in the last 10 years during our various events. I enjoy meeting people and it is the reason I’m involved in our community. But a few conversations stand out. It’s those people who have a direct and unapologetic directness who are prepared to stand beside you no matter what, which I remember the most.

READ MORE: Fotios Karamitos, yet another COVID-19 victim

I never said to Fotios that his words made be stand taller, that his words gave me courage.

I believe he didn’t need to hear those words as his generation has a stoic self belief built on adversity and hardship. I suspect that they looked at our Greek community elections with the perspective of the broader struggles they had endured. For them, it was just another battle.

For me, Fotios was not just another person. He gave me courage when I most needed it.

Safe journey to Fotios. He leaves this world a better place having raised a wonderful caring son who sits on the Greek community board with us (Michael – and his sensitive wife Kate) and was surrounded by many people who loved him.

Bill Papastergiadis is the President of the Greek Community of Melbourne.