Michael Christopher Savvides, successful businessman, community leader and philanthropist

Michael Christopher Savvides
Michael Christopher Savvides

Michael Christopher Savvides, of Virginia Beach, passed away peacefully at his home in the early hours of Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. He was surrounded by all those who loved him, especially Gypsy, his beloved wife of 59 years.

He is also survived by his children, daughter, Anastasia Savvides Nelson, and her husband, Chris Nelson, and children, Angela, and her husband, Matt Fennell, Rebecca, and her fiancé, Max Jackson, and Michael and Sarah; son, Christopher Savvides, and his wife, Kellson; and daughter, Alexandra Savvides Stalcup, and her husband, Brett Stalcup and children, Alexandra and Anastasia Dylan. He was preceded in death by his brother, Savvas of Nicosia, Cyprus and survived by his nephews, Christoforos Savvides, George Savvides; niece, Anastasia Savvidou, and many beloved family members in Cyprus.

Michael’s life was the embodiment of the American dream. Of his many accomplishments, Michael held his family as the most dear. His abounding gratitude for the love and support of his wife Gypsy was evident through all of his endeavors. The home they created together in Virginia Beach was one that was always welcoming to anyone who came through their door.

Michael’s legacy is an expression of his work ethic and unconditional generosity. He spent his life giving to others, his community and his country. Michael’s numerous honors, philanthropic and service awards throughout his lifetime demonstrate his selfless commitment to supporting his community and the country that he loved so very much.

Michael celebrated his Greek Cypriot heritage with friends and family every day, and was immeasurably proud to be Greek-American. Over the years, Michael and Gypsy hosted weekly Sunday gatherings for family and friends, which were joyously spent gathered around his table for many hours, sharing food and drink, stories, wisdom, cultural traditions and love. This decades-long invitation demonstrates the values Michael held most dear, that he instilled in his children and grandchildren. Michael’s home, family, and community are a testament to the legacy he created, which honors and celebrates the importance of family, his heritage and unconditional love.

Michael was born in the village of Lapithos, Kyrenia, Cyprus, in 1930. Shortly after graduating from the Gymnasium of Kyrenia, Cyprus, age 17, he emigrated to the United States, where he completed his education at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas, and the Norfolk Division of the College of William & Mary, today’s Old Dominion University. He was a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society of ODU.

It was here in Virginia Beach that he began a career as a successful businessman, community leader and servant, and philanthropist. Among his proudest achievements was his naturalization as an American citizen in 1958. As a proud Greek-American, he was committed to shepherding numerous other immigrants along the path to citizenship. He was always quick to point out that America is the only place in the world “where you can go and become one,” an American. No one loved his country more.

Michael’s ingenuity, ambition, work ethic and personality propelled his success in every arena. His hospitality was legendary. When newly married, he seized an opportunity to expand the famous Black Angus Restaurant from Norfolk to Virginia Beach, and a lifelong restaurateur was born. Michael worked tirelessly in and for the industry serving as president for the Virginia Beach Restaurant Association and the Virginia Restaurant Association. He was integral in the formation of the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association, and he proudly served an 11-year term and remains an honorary board member for life with the National Restaurant Association.

He also owned and operated the Ramada Inn Oceanfront for several decades and was elected to the National Executive Board of Ramada Inn National Association. He also served the Virginia and the American Hotel and Motel Association.

He was an unwavering advocate for Virginia Beach, never forgoing an opportunity to serve his community. He reigned as King Neptune XII in 1985. He presided over or served on the boards of countless local institutions: the Board of Visitors of Old Dominion University, Advisory Council of Tidewater Community College, Virginia Beach Vocational School, Virginia Beach Arts and Conference Center, Mayor’s Clean Community Commission, Virginia Beach Personnel Board, Mayor’s Committee for Economic Development, the United Way, the Heart Fund, the American Cancer Society, the Virginia Beach Marine Science Museum, the Virginia Wetlands Board, the Neptune Festival, Virginia Beach Events Unlimited, the Virginia Beach Christian Outreach Group, the Virginia Beach Chamber of Commerce, the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, Humana Bayside Hospital, the Jaycees, Commerce Bank, the Bank of Virginia and Towne Bank.

As a life member of the Virginia Jaycees, he received the Virginia Beach Jaycees Distinguished Service Award in 1965 and was named to the 100 Outstanding Young Men of America by the U.S. Jaycees in 1967. In 1982, he received the First Citizen of Virginia Beach Award for his outstanding achievements in business and civic affairs, as well as his unconditional efforts on behalf of his community. In 1983, the Daughters of the American Revolution presented him with the Americanism Medal for his outstanding contributions to his community and country in the areas of leadership, trustworthiness, patriotism, and service. This medal is only presented to foreign born naturalized citizens of the United States. In 1987, he was presented with the Brotherhood Citation of the National Conference of Christians and Jews for his devotion and service to religious institutions and causes as well as his humanitarian service as an energetic leader and worker on behalf of various civic, cultural, educational and welfare organizations that enrich the life of the community.

Michael was also an active Mason and member of the Khedive Shrine Temple in Norfolk. A past president of the Virginia Beach Shriners, he was elected to the Court of Jesters in 1996.

Michael also served his church. He was president of the Parish Council of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Norfolk and a founding member of the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Virginia Beach, where he served three terms as President of the Parish Council. He was a member of the Diocesan Council of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of New Jersey, the League of Greek Orthodox Stewards, and an inductee into the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle.

Always remembering his love of his homeland, Cyprus, he served as president of the Cyprus Benevolent Society, vice president of the Cyprus Federation of America and member of the American Hellenic Institute, AHEPA Cyprus and Hellenic Affairs Committee and the AHEPA Board of Governors. From 1987 to 1990, he served as national chairman of the Cyprus and Hellenic Committee and received the Living the Life Award from the Hellenic Charities of Virginia in 2014.

Michael Savvides was a dedicated American citizen, a responsible and successful businessman and an active humanitarian. He gave of his time and resources generously. His invaluable contributions to our community, our commonwealth and our country epitomize a lifelong effort to make a difference.

A Trisagion service will be held at 6:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 11, at the Laskin Road Chapel of H.D. Oliver Funeral Apts., 2002 Laskin Road, Virginia Beach. A funeral service will be celebrated at 11 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 12, at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 7220 Granby St., Norfolk, with Father George Bessinas officiating. Burial will follow in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a memorial donation to the Shriners Hospital for Children. Donations may be made online at donate.lovetotherescue.org.

Share online condolences with the family at H.D. Oliver Funeral Apts.

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