Burlington man donates Greek books to UNCW

Jan. 23, 2013 @ 07:37 PM

BURLINGTON — Mike Papadeas has returned to Greece only five times since leaving his native country for the United States at the age of 16.

But the Burlington resident, now 74, has never lost interest in the country's history, literature, culture, philosophy and language. Because of that interest, he amassed a collection of books he donated to the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Papadeas donated more than 100 books — some in various forms on the Greek language, others in English — to the university's Randall Library. He was inspired to make the donation by a lecture at the university given by Nicholas Gage, a Greek-American author who wrote "Eleni" and "A Place for Us."

The Greek, or Hellenic, language has changed dramatically just as others have, Papadeas said.

"The Greek language has evolved every 500 years," he said.

The collection includes what Papadeas describes as the definitive, multi-volume account of Greek history, works by classic authors such as Homer and Aristotle, Greek-language Bibles and Nobel Prize-winning modern poetry.

One book consists of advice given to men preparing to go to court during ancient times. Rather than appearing in court with attorneys, Papadeas said, they were expected to speak for themselves with the advantage of advance coaching.

"Things have not changed much to this day," Papadeas said. "One has to do with some black marketeers and the other has to do with a welfare cheat."

Born in Athens, Papadeas came to the United States in the 1950s. His father had already made the transition, and the rest of his immediate family would follow.

After completing high school in Mobile, Ala., Papadeas worked and pursued a college degree. He graduated from Auburn University with a degree in electrical engineering.

His career brought him to Burlington in the late 1960s.

"I worked for Western Electric," he said. "I was transferred here in 1968."

Following his retirement, he worked as a consultant to help companies pursue government contracts. He holds a U.S. patent relating to the testing of telephone channel filters.

Papadeas' wife, Kyleen, grew up in North Carolina. They have been married for more than 50 years and have three children and five grandchildren.

Papadeas has written a memoir of his early life that focuses on his childhood and early teen years in Greece and his coming to the United States.

"It only covers the first 20 years of my life," he said. "I don't intend to go beyond that. It's for my grandchildren."

His most fervent passion, Papadeas said, is his poetry, with influences including ancient Greek culture and modern-day life in the American South. Some of his work has been published in anthologies.

His poem "Twin Towers" was printed in the Times-News on Sept. 11, 2011, on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States.