WILMINGTON — Leon John Mavrolas, 81, unexpectedly passed away Thursday morning, April 8, 2021, at his home. Even though our hearts are broken, we have been so blessed to have had this man in our lives. Leon was well known in the community. His infectious loud laugh and jokester spirt would bring a smile to anyone’s face. Leon never met a stranger and always treated everyone the same, embracing them as family. He truly touched the lives of many in Wilmington.
Leon was preceded in death by his parents, John Leon Mavrolas and Sophie Louridas Mavrolas.
He is survived by his wife, Mary Sykes Mavrolas; his three daughters, Sophia Mavrolas Potts (Kevin Potts), Cara Vanessa Mavrolas (Nathan Tayloe) and Victoria Mavrolas Poulin (Phillipe Poulin); four grandchildren, Nina Anastasia Dakis, John Lynux Mavrolas, Paschal Leonidas “Leo” Poulin and Mary Athena Poulin; sister, Argie Katsaros; and many well-loved nephews, nieces, cousins, sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law.
Leon was born in Youngstown, Ohio, and moved to Wilmington as a toddler. Wilmington became his home that he adored. He attended New Hanover High School, where he made some of his best lifelong friends. He attended Wilmington College and North Carolina State University. Afterward, he enlisted in the U.S. Army National Guard and served 6 years. He worked for North Carolina Natural Gas and then at DuBois Chemical Company. Most people knew him best as a restaurant owner. The Ogden Restaurant, Kefis’s, Leon’s Ogden Restaurant and the Rib Shack became iconic to Wilmington. There, he met more friends than we could ever count.
He gave opportunities to so many young adults and mentored them to stay on the right path. Leon’s heart was bigger than he was when it came to helping people who were less fortunate. When Leon saw someone homeless holding a sign he gave them a ride to his restaurant and fed them. Some he even employed and helped them find a place to live so they could get on their feet again. On Sundays when the restaurant closed early, the food would be taken to a spot in downtown Wilmington by a reverend and his family. There, they would pray over the food and feed the homeless. What was beautiful about Leon’s soul was that he gave people chances that others would not. He did not judge; he just loved.
Leon always had so much love, respect and admiration for our military. Many times men and women heading back to base would stop and eat, but Leon never allowed them to pay. He said buying their meals was the least he could do for all they do for us. Leon’s became more than just a restaurant. It was a place where friends would meet, share good times, great stories and a lot of laughter. Not only were Leon and Mary owners and operators, but they worked side by side with all three daughters, Sophia, Vanessa and Victoria. Many mornings, he would go table to table pouring coffee and talking to each person that would enter the doors because he was so grateful for each and every customer.
Through 38 years of owning a restaurant, the amount of friends he made from customers to employees was immeasurable; they became more like family to him. Leon’s best days were spent in his restaurants cooking, laughing, pranking and working with his family. On his own time, he enjoyed driving his Harley with his buddies and fishing and sailing with family. Being on the ocean made him really happy. He was full of life, love and laughter.
His retirement years were spent spending time with his family, enjoying time with friends and most of all, being with his grandchildren, who he loved and adored dearly. Leon will be greatly missed by his family and an entire community that he touched with his whole heart. May his memory be eternal.
A funeral service will be held at 11:30 a.m., Friday, April 16, at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. The family will receive visitors beginning at 11 a.m. Burial will follow in Oakdale Cemetery.
Share online condolences with the family at Andrews Mortuary & Crematory.