Thomas Lalagos, loving parent, partner, friend, passed away of natural causes in his home in Chicago on January 16, 2020 at the age of 73.
Athanasios “Thomas” Lalagos was born in Vouno, Tegea, Greece on January 1, 1947, the youngest child of parents Dimitri Lalagos and Matina Bakou and sibling to sisters Dina, Eugenia, and Katina, all deceased. In 1958, Thomas immigrated to Chicago with his mother to rejoin his father and sisters who had arrived some years earlier. He grew up on the South Side of the city and graduated high school from Robert Lindblom Math & Science Academy before earning a Bachelor’s Degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Illinois, Chicago. Thomas quickly decided on a career in teaching and began a 35+ year career in the Chicago Public School system.
In 1976, Thomas married his wife, Ileana Bordabehere with whom he had three children. His marriage to Ileana lasted from 1976 until her untimely death from cancer in 1996 and he remained a single parent for the remainder of his children’s upbringing. Thomas is survived by his children Dimitri, Alexander, and Antonia, and grandchildren Valentina and Tommy (of Alexander and wife Marina). As of the publishing of this memoir, he was expecting a third grandchild (of Antonia and husband Andrés); the news of this upcoming birth gave him incredible joy as relayed by his domestic partner. He is also survived by Bessie “Kiki” Tsitsopoulos, his domestic partner, best friend, and travel buddy and her children Kassandra, Stavros, and Alexandros, all of whom took “Thanasi” in as one of the family in the same way that he welcomed them into the Lalagos household. Thomas is survived by many nieces and nephews; Peter and Maria (of Dina and Kosta); Tina (of Eugenia); and Elaine, Matina, Jeannie, and Jamie (of Katina and Nicholas). It should also be mentioned that his cousins, their spouses, and their children in Greece as well as his wife’s relatives were all incredibly important people in his life.
Family was of utmost importance to Thomas and despite his desire to create a central destination in his home for any and all who wanted to visit, he was also very respectful of boundaries and understood that closeness comes from trust. He never cajoled or insisted, he simply opened his home and waited. To his children’s friends he made a seamless transition from Mr. Lalagos to “Tom” and made efforts to keep in touch well beyond what was expected, reasonable, or typical. He adored his children and loved being a parent and grandparent, constantly nurturing but always learning, adjusting, and listening. He and his partner Kiki spent the last six years on adventure after adventure, from Russia to Australia, Italy to Sweden, Ireland to Turkey, and, of course, throughout all of Greece where they both have family and shared not just experiences but personal history and a deep bond of culture.
Thomas spent his entire life, and particularly his retirement, as a civic activist promoting good will, fostering deep relationships, and protesting the ills of greed, myopic policy, and politics prioritizing the free market over the greater good. He was politically active, constantly up to date on current affairs, and sought out a wide range of literature and media from which to educate himself. In fact, in his late 20s his first teacher profile listed his favorite quote as, “No news is bad news.” Thomas’ deepest passion outside of loving, human interaction was protecting the Chicago Public Schools from corruption and cronyism. He spent his best years fighting on behalf of all students, the teachers dedicated to their education, and the facilities built for learning. Whether volunteering to be arrested in front of the mayor’s office, speaking at a rally, or marching in any protest he could fit into his schedule, he led by example. If there is one consistency amongst the sentiments that have been shared since his passing, it is that Thomas had an ability to treat everyone and anyone as if they were the center of the universe – without prejudice and irrespective of age, creed, race, sex or other difference. He will be remembered not just as a fighter, but also as a father, mentor, brother, and kind soul.
A celebration of his life will be held on February 22 from 11am to 3pm at the Chicago Teacher’s Union Center located at 1901 W Carroll in Chicago.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Children & Teachers Foundation of the Chicago Teachers Union.