WILMINGTON — George A. Saffo, 92, known by many as “The Duke,” passed into the arms of the Lord peacefully on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, at New Hanover Regional Medical Center.
He was preceded in death by his parents; Anthony and Anastasia Saffo; and wife, Sophia Contes Saffo.
George graduated from New Hanover High School, Class of 1942. After attending one year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he went on to serve his country as an airman in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. When his service ended, he worked with his father and uncle at Saffo’s Restaurant on Front Street.
In the early 1960’s, he and his cousins, A.V. (Doky) Saffo and Bill Saffo built and opened the Heart of Wilmington Motel and Boucan Room restaurant in downtown Wilmington. George managed the business. For many years, the Boucan Room was “the night spot” of Wilmington and the surrounding area. George also managed restaurant and motel operations in Durham, N.C., and Charleston, S.C. After leaving the restaurant business, George was involved in several small business and real estate ventures. He retired around 1985.
George enjoyed hunting, fishing, travel and reading. Most of all, he relished spending time in the company of good friends. In his early years, he befriended Wilmington author, Robert C. Ruark Jr. He loved to tell stories about the week he spent in Palamos, Spain, with “The Famous Bobby.” Later, he became a member of the Robert Ruark Society in Southport, N.C. Together, with his friend, Steve Bliss, he published the most recent biography of Ruark, “Ruark Remembered,” by Alan Ritchie.
George lived his life to the fullest. Many of his friends referred to him affectionately as a “modern day Zorba the Greek.” George loved visiting his ancestral home on the island of Ikaria, Greece, where he would spend time with relatives and friends who came from around the world. He was happiest when in Greece where, as he would often say, “I feel that I’m in the presence of my ancestors.” George was a lifelong member of the Pan- Ikarian Brotherhood and a member of the Order of AHEPA for over 50 years.
George is survived by his son, Anthony A. “Tony” Saffo; three grandchildren, Nicolas A. Saffo, Sofia O. Saffo and Zachary G. Saffo; and by his dear companion and caregiver, Nancy Worsley, who shared many joys with him during the last eight years. George had a wide, diverse and interesting collection of relatives and friends. He will be missed by all.
A visitation service was held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19, with a Trisagion Service at 7:30 p.m. at Andrews Mortuary, 1617 Market St., Wilmington. Funeral services, led by Father Jon Emanuelson, will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 20, at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, 608 S. College Road, Wilmington. Interment will follow in Oakdale Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donation may be made in Mr. Saffo’s name to St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, 608 S. College Road, Wilmington, NC 28401; or Boy Scouts of America, Troop 232, c/o Little Chapel on the Boardwalk, 2 W. Fayetteville St., Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480.