NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Tuesday March 31st 2020

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“I’ve been up and I’ve been down. I’ve been all around.”

By MIKE HAZARD

Peter appeared at Peace House, a face out of the past. He jumped in my face and smiled. “I remember you and you don’t remember me, Mike.” I remember your face, but not your name. “Peter. Pete the Greek from Crete. I was the guy who voted against you making a movie about Peace House back in 2007. I was wrong. It came out OK. Now I love you.” 

MIKE HAZARD This is the picture that Pete asked to have added to the We Remember wall where Peace House people who have passed away are remembered.

“I stop by Peace House every month or two. I have been coming here for over 30 years. I’ve been through it all. I have been up and I’ve been down. I’ve been all around.”

“I knew Sister Rose (who founded Peace House). I drove her home daily. She was wholesome, hearty, and spirited. She could settle the biggest guy down. She was so wholesome, she was innocent. She was one of the most giving persons I have ever known.”

“Her brother Larry gave AA talks. When I was in St. Cloud, I was so happy to see him at an AA meeting.”

We clicked pictures in the main room at Peace House. He liked the one “without the smile. No teeth. No toothy grin.”

He was busy working, selling vehicles. “I run a company called We Sell Old Cabs. I want to leave a legacy to my children.” Peter was making it, driving a big, old car he uses to drive people around. Peter had a key to a good life.

Then, a shock. Peter Nikiforakis was found dead in his van at Franklin and Bloomington on Monday, November 11, 2019. He knew his days were numbered. He had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). “I spend 6-9 days a month in the hospital. It is only a matter of time. I am ready to go. I’m OK with that.” It’s not clear if he died from exposure or from COPD or both.

The last time I saw him he was praising Mary Cassioppi, one of the coordinators at Peace House. “Her agenda is to help people.” Mary responded, “I’m always learning.” Mary said Pete always said that he had one foot in the grave and one foot on a banana peel. 

“Pete was always aware of the tenuousness of his condition, yet always had a smile on his face, though we could tell that breathing was getting harder and harder for him with each visit lately,” said Peace House volunteer Mary Robinson. “I think he came to say goodbye in his own way without actually saying it for sure. His pride, his vulnerability, his love of the Peace House community, his humility and his ‘acceptance’ of his journey as well as just his growing appreciation for LIFE, and his compassion for all who walked his walk stand out. He will be greatly missed and his presence will remain with me always.”

Another volunteer, Meg Mannix, added, “About a month ago, Pete made a point to introduce himself to me—knowing I was new-—and engaged me in a great conversation about Peace House and community and friendship. He told me he was dying, and I wasn’t sure how to respond. He said it in such a ‘matter of fact’ manner, more as an aside, that it caught me off guard. I mumbled something being sorry…he brushed that off and went on singing the praises of the various volunteers at PH, and the love he experienced there. I was looking forward to more conversations with him… my loss, for sure. My loss, indeed. May the angels lead you into paradise, Pete the Greek from Crete. What a kind man you were.”

Tressa Sularz, a regular PH visitor, described him succinctly, “He was a quiet man who left quietly.”

The last time he was at Peace House, Peter fixed the dishwasher. Nobody knew he could do that.

His agenda was to help people.

Rest in peace, Pete the Greek from Crete, rest.

This poetical picture story is by Mike Hazard. It is part of a project called Peace House People. A selection of the work will be exhibited at Franklin Library in February, 2020. The project is funded by an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board.

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