Uncle Leon was filled with warmth, wit, humor and a carefree spirit. I loved hearing his Rockaway stories from the glory days - of bar brawls at the Breakers, body surfing on the beach or foot races against my father, who Leon always said was the fastest Cholakis. My favorite bit of ancestral lore though was about a great grandfather buried alive back in Greece, saved from suffocation by a dog: “So always be nice to dogs," he would end, smiling slyly. "Our family wouldn't be here without 'em."
Leon was not only humorous but humble for an undefeated national champion. He blocked for the iconic Ernie Davis, helped Syracuse seal a perfect season and got drafted by the Giants, but I never heard him brag. I guess the ring he wore spoke for itself.
Finally, my godfather was right there for me when my dad died, offering unconditional love and support when I needed it most. In fact, Leon’s affection forms my most vivid recollections of a wonderfully loving, larger than life man. His warm smile, kisses and big embrace are etched in my earliest memories. I will miss him.
We send our deepest condolences to Peter and his immediate family. Our prayers are with you.
Elia (son of “Little John”) and Karen (Elia’s wife)