John Ragavanis, a master electrician who worked in the Manhattan homes of many celebrities, died Monday of cardiac arrest at Franklin General Hospital in Valley Stream. The 35-year village resident was 86.
Ragavanis, born in Greece, spent much of his youth under occupying German and Italian troops stationed in Patras, which was liberated by the British in October 1944.
He became a master electrician in Greece and, after enlisting, served more than two years in the Greek army before his honorable discharge in 1950, according to his family. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1955 with his sister.
Ragavanis worked as a butcher in Manhattan. But by 1964 he had built up his electrical contracting business and was winning large contracts to repower the lighthouses and buoys around the Northeast, said his son-in-law, George Stamboulidis. He said Coast Guard cutters carried Ragavanis' workers and materials to and from work sites from Maine to Cape May.
Stamboulidis said Ragavanis also had undertaken major electrical work for soccer star Pele, tennis champion John McEnroe and Hollywood legends including Shelley Winters.
Stamboulidis said his wife, Penny, told him how her father would spend time telling the family about the famous people who hired him.
"He believed in the American dream and helped so many others of various ethnicities achieve it," Stamboulidis said. "Among other good deeds, he did the electrical work at his church, St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Jamaica, Queens."
Ragavanis' son, Chris, of Old Saybrook, Connecticut, said, "I have lost more than a father, but also a teacher, a friend and my strength. I followed in his footsteps as much as I could, and it has made me a better man."
In addition to his son and daughter, Ragavanis is survived by his wife of 50 years, Elly; sister, Vaso Pantelis, of Babylon; three brothers, Dino Ragavanis and Vasilis Ragavanis of Valley Stream, and Solon Ragavanis of Patras, Greece, and four grandchildren.
Viewing will be 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Lieber Funeral Home in Valley Stream. Services will be at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Queens, followed by burial at Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale.