George Papadakis, who had served as a member of the Signal Hill City Council for 12 years, passed away on Dec. 18 at the age of 85. He died peacefully in his sleep at Bel Vista nursing home where he had been residing for about 19 months.
Papadakis was born in Ashland, Wisconsin on Oct. 24, 1927. He married Colleen Georgas on Aug. 28, 1955 in Long Beach.
After graduating from high school, Papadakis earned a bachelor’s of arts degree in business and economics at the University of Minnesota in 1954, and a master’s of science degree in education administration at the University of Southern California in 1967. He worked as an elementary-school teacher in the Torrance School District from 1955 to 1967, and as an elementary school administrator in that district from 1967 to 1982.
He was in the U.S. Navy Reserve from 1943 to 1950 and served on active duty in the Navy from 1945 to 1947, and again from 1950 to 1952.
Papadakis began his career as a local civic leader in 1960 when he was appointed to the Signal Hill Planning Commission. He served on that body until 1970, which is the year he was first elected to the Signal Hill City Council. He remained on the council until 1974, serving as mayor from 1973 to 1974. He was re-elected to the council for another four-year term in 1976, and again in 1980, serving again as mayor from 1981 to 1982.
He was a member of the board of directors of the Signal Hill Redevelopment Agency from 1976 to 1984, and, from 1970 to 1984, he served as a delegate or representative of 10 different civic institutions including the California League of Cities and the Contract Cities of California.
Papadakis was also an active member of the Long Beach Greek Orthodox Church, the Elks Club, the Lions Club, the California and Torrance Teachers Association, and several other organizations in the private sector.
His youngest daughter, Cristina Papadakis, lives in Signal Hill with her mother, Colleen. “When he was on the city council, he always tried to do what he believed was best for Signal Hill,” Cristina said.
Signal Hill Councilmember Mike Noll knew Papadakis for almost four decades, and he agreed with Cristina’s assessment, noting that Papadakis sincerely cared about the city and wanted to see it prosper and thrive. “We didn’t always agree on the plans for developing the city and more specifically the hilltop, but we always had a great deal of respect for each other,” Noll said. “You always knew where you stood with him.”
Former Signal Hill Councilmember Keaton King served alongside Papadakis for two years– 1972 and 1973. “He was a good councilman who believed in speaking his mind,” King said. “If you had an idea he didn’t like, he would tell you, and he would tell you why he didn’t like it.”
King added that Papadakis was his good friend for many years. “He was a great guy who was liked and respected by most people who knew him,” he said.
Although in his later years, Papadakis had been living in his Bixby Hills home near CSULB, he still made trips to Signal Hill to patronize Curley’s restaurant.
Cristina noted that Papadakis was also a very sociable person who genuinely cared about the well-being of others. “He participated in many of the activities at Bel Vista and was loved and respected by residents, staff, and administrators there,” she said. “He also became the president of the Bel Vista Resident Council and served as a liaison between residents and the administration.”
She added that Papadakis was recognizable by his ever-present cigar and Hawaiian shirts. “He was a wonderful man who loved his family, loved his church, and loved his community,” Cristina said.
Papadakis’s son, Michael, agreed with Christina, stressing that he was always in awe of his father’s energy, intelligence, and indefatigable efforts to improve the quality of life of the people who lived in his community. “He was a remarkable man and a major influence on my life,” Michael said. “He will always be an inspiration to anyone who knew him.”
Papadakis’s oldest daughter, Lisa Ala, lives in Signal Hill with her husband Falanai Ala and their two sons, George and Elisara. She noted that she has many fond recollections of Papadakis, but she mostly remembers how dedicated he was to his family. “He was a wonderful father, and he always supported anything we chose to do,” she said. “He was also very good to my mother, and I will always be thankful for the happy childhood that he gave to all of us.”
In addition to his wife, children, and grandchildren, Papadakis is survived by Michael’s wife Janel and a sister, Helen Beecher of Ashland, Wisconsin.
Papadakis’s memorial service was Dec. 28 at Forest Lawn Cathedral Chapel in Long Beach. A funeral service took place the following day at the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Long Beach.