‘Light of our family’

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‘Light of our family’

Justice Police Officer Peter Lenos is laid to rest

By Steve Metsch

Family and friends of late Justice Police Officer Peter Lenos focused on the good times – and there were plenty – as they bid him goodbye.

Lenos, 39, was laid to rest on Friday.

The 15-year veteran of the Justice Police Department suffered a fatal heart attack on April 29.

Before his funeral at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church, 7560 S. Archer Road, Justice, Alex Pavlakis and Stephanie Hildreth shared some happy memories about a cousin they’ll never forget.

“Peter is the light of our family,” Hildreth, 38, of Barrington said. “The light, the life and the party. He was the family favorite.”

“If we knew Pete was going to be somewhere, we made sure we showed up,” she said. “If he was going to be at a wedding, you requested to be at Pete’s table. There are probably 40 cousins all together and we all wanted to be close to Pete.”

Nobody was more inclusive of strangers, she said.

Pavlakis smiled at that comment.

“If you meet Pete for five minutes, you had a memory with him,” Pavlakis, 30, of Crown Point, said. “It was special memories. Not just any memory.”

“My fiancé met him for 10, 15 minutes at a wake last year, and she remembers him by name. She remembers the day, what he said. She remembers him harassing her and making fun of her,” Pavlakis said with a laugh.

As an example of Lenos’ playfulness, Hildreth played a video message on her phone.

Lenos is seen sitting in his car, mouthing the words to Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.,” while the hit song from 2009 blared from his car radio.

“I’m sorry,” she said with a laugh, “but this is Pete. He was the first one on the dance floor, the first one to pour drinks for the cousins.”

His voice breaking with emotion, Pavlakis said Lenos was quick to hug people and offer words of encouragement when they felt sad.

Lenos was also quite the “jokester” said another cousin, Mary Spiros, 61, of Romeoville.

“He knew that clowns freak me out, so every now and again in my Facebook messenger, I’d find some picture (from him) of a clown, a scary clown,” Spiros said.

That youthful exuberance was obvious the first time Father John Kalomas met Lenos.

Kalomas was standing atop a pile of gravel, overlooking the future parking lot at Holy Cross, when Lenos, then 16, climbed up with his late father, George, to chat with the priest.

Kalomas chided the young Lenos, asking why the Cub fan “would wear a losing team’s jersey.”

“He said to me, in the sarcastic way that he had, ‘Why, Father, are you a Sox fan?’ I said, ‘I like the Sox, but my team is the St. Louis Cardinals’.”

“George started laughing and I had to grab Peter before he slid down from the mountain of gravel in shock,” Kalomas said as laughter echoed through the church.

Peter went on to become an altar boy for Kalomas, who is now at St. Andrew Greek Orthodox Church on Chicago’s North Side. Kalomas had served as a priest at Holy Cross from 1995 to 2004.

Kalomas, who officiated the funeral, spoke warmly about Lenos in his eulogy, noting his love of family and his desire to help others.

He said that Lenos, who played football at Downers Grove South and Carthage College, later was an assistant coach at his old high school. He later coached at rival Downers Grove North, and in the Panther Football Organization.

“He was a dedicated football coach,” Kalomas said. “He was a dedicated police officer.”

Outside the church, Justice Mayor Kris Wasowicz said he appreciated Lenos’ hard work.

“He was a great guy,” Wasowicz said. “I really liked him. He was a fixture in the police department. Everybody liked the guy. He had a good nature and he was a good police officer.”

“In the light of his death, you appreciate what good guys (police officers) are, and how hard they work to keep the riffraff away from regular folks,” the mayor added.

After the funeral, about 150 mourners, most of them wearing black, quietly walked across Archer Road – which was closed to traffic – to attend the graveside ceremony in Bethania Cemetery.

Representatives of Chicago and many suburban police departments attended the funeral, lights flashing on their squad cars and SUVs which were part of the funeral procession leading the silver hearse.

Willow Springs Police Chief Jim Ritz, among the law enforcement officials in attendance, said it was “a shame” Lenos died at such a young age.

 

Steve Metsch
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