Nick Papadakos was someone his community knew and loved.
The East County native died on June 25 following a brief illness. He was 91.
Papadakos grew up on his family’s farm in Byron and graduated from Liberty High School in 1947. He spent his career with DuPont and joined the Byron Fire District in 1950, serving as its fire chief from 1968 until 1991.
In 1988, he hired East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) Battalion Chief Jeff Burris.
“He was a visionary,” Burris said. “He was a fine human being and a great fire chief. He hired a lot of firefighters right out of high school or from Los Medanos College who were at the beginnings of their careers. He knew when to take chances on people.”
Burris only worked with Papadakos for about three years, but they kept in touch afterward. When Burris was in public, he often saw Papadakos, too.
“He was always at local restaurants: Brentwood Café, Dino’s, Jalisco’s,” Burris said. “He was active in the community, with the local farmers, the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He really enjoyed life.”
Papadakos also hired ECCFPD Capt. Dan Baio when he started at the Byron Fire District in 1988.
“Nick was a great guy and fire chief,” Baio said. “He always helped his community; he was really one of a kind.”
Papadakos was a U.S. Army veteran of the Korean War and a lifetime member of Brentwood’s post of the VFW, a volunteer organization that advocates for veterans’ rights, benefits and support. He ran the post as its commander for about seven years before Steve Todd assumed duties in 2010.
“He was my mentor,” Todd said. “He showed me a lot. He taught me how to get things done.”
Todd said Papadakos was passionate about community service. He wanted to make sure others were honored for their dedication and was always adamant the VFW honored their Firefighter of the Year.
Although Todd spent a lot of time with Papadakos during their work for the VFW, they were friends, too.
“I helped him a lot with work on his home,” he said. “He was easygoing and easy to help. He was very well known and very well liked. He will be missed by many.”
Members of the Brentwood VFW Post 10789 and the ECCFPD were pallbearers at Papadakos’ memorial Tuesday, July 2. A 21-gun salute marked his interment at Union Cemetery, and Mike Meyokovich, senior vice commander of VFW Post 10789, presented the American flag to Papadakos’ sister, Mary Geavaris, to honor his military service.