SENATOR JOHN PAPPAGEORGE
Say what you want about Alexander Haig, chances are you don’t have a signed letter of appreciation from him over your office desk. John Pappageorge does, a symbol of the value he brought to the U.S. Military during his thirty years of active Infantry duty. This included two combat tours in Vietnam and the Distinguished Service Medal, Superior Service Medal, four Legions of Merit, the Bronze Star, nine Air Medals, the Combat Infantryman's Badge and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.
Having retired as a colonel in 1984, Pappageorge turned his boundless energy first to the private sector, then to public service. His resume reads like that of half a dozen men: Director of Business and Strategic Planning at General Dynamics Land Systems, four years as an Oakland County Commissioner, First Vice Chair of the Republican Party of Michigan. John was a Republican candidate for Congress in Michigan's 12th district in 1992, 1994 and 1996 and in 1998 was elected to the State House of Representatives for the 41st District, consisting of Troy, Clawson and Royal Oak.
Through it all, he remained true to his Greek heritage, and speaks with profound nostalgia about all elements of his childhood centering on Hellenic customs, with the exception of the time he spent in Greece itself following the untimely passing of his parents at the age of five.
“The ice cream cones were too small,” he remembers wistfully. “I wanted to come home.”
He is a member of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and served on its parish council for six years.
Back in Detroit, Pappageorge was taken in by relatives; a Greek tradition, he explains. It was during that period that he really began to understand the rudiments of his background, including the Greek language and the culture which he refers to as ‘the original Greektown’. “It was like being in Athens,” he says. “Men in coffee shops talking politics. You know, in Greece, for every three people, there are five political parties!”
It was perhaps a natural, therefore, that Pappageorge ultimately pursued a career in politics. Beside his Senatorship, He spent four years as a member of the House Appropriations Committee and served his final two years on the policy side of the House as Chair of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules and as a member of the Employment Relations, Training and Safety Committee, the Judiciary Committee, the Senior Health, Security and Retirement Committee and the Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security Committee.
Having lost his wife of thirty-five years in 1993 he married Cristina Burnard in September 1997. In addition to John's two married children, George and Christina, the family includes Cristina's daughter, Melissa Saffold. They also have four grandchildren; a son and daughter from Christina who lives near Chicago and two daughters from George who lives in Troy. Son George , an Army Reserve Lt. Col., recently returned from serving in Iraq.
Cristina is part Greek herself, and like the children, celebrate their roots. Says Pappageorge, “I have spent thirty years in the Army proving my loyalty to the United States, and never once lost pride in my ‘Greekness’.”