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Smirnioudis family continues Thanksgiving tradition at Windmill Restaurant

  • George Smirnioudis works in the kitchen with Nikolaos Mayiakas and John Kakavitsas while preparing a free Thanksgiving meal for hundreds of homeless guests at the Windmill Restaurant in Concord on Thursday, November 28, 2013. George and his brothers Michael and Kosmas, who now runs the restaurant, continued the annual tradition started by their father, Louie Smirnioudis, who died from lung cancer in August.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    George Smirnioudis works in the kitchen with Nikolaos Mayiakas and John Kakavitsas while preparing a free Thanksgiving meal for hundreds of homeless guests at the Windmill Restaurant in Concord on Thursday, November 28, 2013. George and his brothers Michael and Kosmas, who now runs the restaurant, continued the annual tradition started by their father, Louie Smirnioudis, who died from lung cancer in August.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Donna Liolis and her husband Christy Liolis (right) serve meals to (clockwise from left) Judy Emmett, Arianna Hutchins, Danielle Emmett, and John Hutchins as the Windmill Restaurant in Concord hosts its annual free Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless on Thursday, November 28, 2013. Judy Emmett says her family has been coming to the dinner since 2007, when they were themselves homeless, but this year they donated a turkey to another family before coming to the Windmill from Franklin. <br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Donna Liolis and her husband Christy Liolis (right) serve meals to (clockwise from left) Judy Emmett, Arianna Hutchins, Danielle Emmett, and John Hutchins as the Windmill Restaurant in Concord hosts its annual free Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless on Thursday, November 28, 2013. Judy Emmett says her family has been coming to the dinner since 2007, when they were themselves homeless, but this year they donated a turkey to another family before coming to the Windmill from Franklin.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Slices of pie rest in the kitchen at the Windmill Restaurant in Concord as it hosted its first annual free Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless on Thursday, November 28, 2013. The three sons of late Windmill owner Louie Smirnioudis were on hand for the first Thanksgiving since Smirnioudis died from lung cancer in August.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Slices of pie rest in the kitchen at the Windmill Restaurant in Concord as it hosted its first annual free Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless on Thursday, November 28, 2013. The three sons of late Windmill owner Louie Smirnioudis were on hand for the first Thanksgiving since Smirnioudis died from lung cancer in August.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • George Smirnioudis works in the kitchen with Nikolaos Mayiakas and John Kakavitsas while preparing a free Thanksgiving meal for hundreds of homeless guests at the Windmill Restaurant in Concord on Thursday, November 28, 2013. George and his brothers Michael and Kosmas, who now runs the restaurant, continued the annual tradition started by their father, Louie Smirnioudis, who died from lung cancer in August.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Donna Liolis and her husband Christy Liolis (right) serve meals to (clockwise from left) Judy Emmett, Arianna Hutchins, Danielle Emmett, and John Hutchins as the Windmill Restaurant in Concord hosts its annual free Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless on Thursday, November 28, 2013. Judy Emmett says her family has been coming to the dinner since 2007, when they were themselves homeless, but this year they donated a turkey to another family before coming to the Windmill from Franklin. <br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Slices of pie rest in the kitchen at the Windmill Restaurant in Concord as it hosted its first annual free Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless on Thursday, November 28, 2013. The three sons of late Windmill owner Louie Smirnioudis were on hand for the first Thanksgiving since Smirnioudis died from lung cancer in August.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

Turkey, pie and hugs were abundant at the Windmill Restaurant yesterday. Just like every year on Thanksgiving.

“You can’t help but smile,” said Kosmas Smirnioudis, who now runs the restaurant his father, Louie, opened in 1990.

Louie died of lung cancer in August. His three sons promised him they would keep his Thanksgiving tradition alive, offering free meals to anyone who needed somewhere to go for the holiday.

Their father was not there to greet visitors at the door yesterday, but the community meal went on, just like it has for the past 24 years.

“He’s around, always overlooking,” said Louie’s oldest son, George.

Guests poured in through the doorways. Volunteers carried heaping plates of turkey and stuffing. Dozens more worked in the kitchen, with 62 turkeys and 400 pounds of squash and potatoes. Children balanced trays of pie, offering them to people seated in the dining room.

By noon, the restaurant was more crowded than the Smirnioudis brothers had ever seen it.

“It’s bigger than my dad,” Kosmas said of the community meal. “My dad made it big . . . but it’s much bigger than that. If I didn’t end up doing this, I’d be letting hundreds of people down who look forward to eating something warm for once in their life or look forward to being somewhere where they can feel like there’s family.”

When Louie was diagnosed with cancer last year, the Thanksgiving feast continued as always. After 550 people ate their meals, after the volunteers went home, Louie sat down to eat with his own family. He instructed them to keep his tradition alive.

Kosmas runs the restaurant now. He was just 2 years old when his father opened the restaurant on Loudon Road.

“I was the one that would always come to work with dad when we were kids, and I enjoyed it,” Kosmas said. “I knew this is what I was going to be doing for the rest of my life.”

Last year, when his father was sick, Kosmas worked to prepare the Thanksgiving meal just like his father would have done. Louie was “the face of it” – and still is. Louie wanted to remind people that “there’s something bigger and better you can be doing to make a difference,” Kosmas said.

As he sat in a booth enjoying his Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, Tom Blouin of Concord said he remembers talking with Louie every holiday.

“He used to greet us at the door, and we miss him very much,” Blouin said.

This year, Blouin said he is thankful for a lot – he was homeless, but now has an apartment. There’s something else to be thankful for, added Blouin’s friend, Tim Cate: “We thank Louis’s family for continuing the tradition.”

The Smirnioudis family was full of their own thanks to volunteers and donors who provided food. The family did not have to purchase any of the 62 turkeys served yesterday, and there were more pies than any other year, Kosmas said.

“I can’t tell you how grateful I am for my dad’s closest friends standing behind me and making sure I don’t mess up,” he said. “It’s been a blessing. He may be gone, but his presence, his spirit’s definitely still here.”

Kosmas’s brothers, Michael and George, help too. So does his mother, Sophia, though she kept a low profile yesterday.

“Today was a very important day for my father,” Kosmas said. “And it meant a lot to him. He’s been doing it for quite some time, and this is the first one (without him) so it’s a little hard for everybody.”

But holding the meal was never a question for the three brothers, who don’t remember Thanksgiving without a crowded Windmill Restaurant.

“I couldn’t let people down like that,” Kosmas said. “I couldn’t do that. And my dad would kill me if I did that. You know what I mean? He’d come right down and kick my butt.”

Everyone in the restaurant was family yesterday, as it buzzed with the sounds of clanging dishes and holiday greetings.

“You get to know a lot of the people who come here,” said former governor John Lynch, who came to the Windmill for each of the eight Thanksgivings he was governor. He returned again this year, offering hugs to the Smirnioudis family and pausing to chat with guests as they ate.

“It’s the same old tradition,” said George, standing in the corner just outside the kitchen.

But he’s not idle for long. A baby needs a high chair. A couple in the back wants to leave a donation. An old friend offers a hug.

Just like every year on Thanksgiving.

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

This article has been updated to correctly identify Tom Blouin.

Legacy Comments13

Tillie, the phrase is: "For ye have the poor always with you; " as found in: http://biblehub.com/matthew/26-11.htm with the " Pulpit Commentary " of: "St. Mark adds, "and whensoever ye will ye may do them good." This was in strict accordance with the old Law: "The poor shall NEVER CEASE OUT OF THE LAND; therefore I COMMAND thee, saying, Thou shalt OPEN THY HAND* WIDE unto thy brother, to thy POOR, and to thy NEEDY in thy land" (Deuteronomy 15:11). " Emphasis ADDed for not only the poor, but ALSO to the "needy", of see * = http://www.biblemeanings.info/Words/Body/Hand.htm " The signification of hand, is power. " So when you wrote that Lynch has http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empathy of a "desire to help" with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desire of "hoping for an OUTcome" but while allowing a fellow N.H. Article 12 inhabitant to be pulled OUT and off their RSA Ch. 480:1-9 homestead, then such http://www.thefreedictionary.com/heavy-handed RSA Ch. 643:1 "Official oppression" of "refrain" to DO his Art. 51 duty to "protect" for those "need"ing their home, of to instead have mere desire for others to obtain such of then to maybe encounter the same be hypocritical! of such a "Protection Racket" of he smiles in your face but stabs you in the back! He refused to execute the law in Sec. 2 of the 14th Amendment, of these "other laws" never N.H. Article 1 "consent":ed to, but instead kept appointing his cronies to "The Bench."

I echo Ducklady, "huh"? I can't believe this whole angry tirade comes from the kindness of the Simirioudis family providing Thanksgiving dinner to needy individuals. I can just imagine what anger Christmas dinner will bring out in you.

Also, I must say you have a very annoying way of writing. Maybe you need to look up the meaning of every word in Wikipedia but why must you reprint them in your posts? And your quote marks and use of capitals all over the place. Looks like a very bad term paper. GET OVER IT! IT WAS A THANKSGIVING DINNER! (Now you got me doing it.)

What would Lynch be expected to do? He is not governor any more and he is not running for anything so if he still shows up now maybe he has real empathy for these folks. Personally I don't remember any disaster in NH that he wasn't right there and not just for a photo opp. Just let it be. Someone once said something like we will always have the rich with us, but I think it is the poor that will never leave us.

Reference: ". . . former governor John Lynch, . . . chat(ed)* with guests as they ate. " * http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/chat " to talk WITH someone in a casual way " (emphasis ADDed), or: " to talk in an informal or familiar manner" TO someone, of which one was it in the most? I suspect the latter of talking TO but not much WITH the people. Try to prove me wrong. When or if any homeless person gets on the internet, like on Monday of when The State Library opens and the three computers are working, and that they MIGHT get to here, of I'd really like to read what he did SAY and what of ANYthing to DO about their condition.

Wow! Happy Thanksgiving to you too. Just one day a year to be nice.

"raggle-fraggle-friggle . . . Lynch . . . friggle-fraggle-raggle . . . liberal . . . fraggle-raggle-fribble . . . communist . . . raggle-fraggle . . . "

Are you feeling OK?

Huh?

Not "'Nuff said" there H.D. for D.L. (;-) of in other words the "same old, same old"*, as they say of from the R&D's I take it, of thus needing an L to go beyond the flap their gums** to actually DO something to alleviate the numbers next year of not "need"ing to be in such dire straits.*** / * http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/same old same old of Lynch, The Boring, ** http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Flapping%20their%20gums and *** http://www.thefreedictionary.com/dire straits

"Who can argue with that?" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pus6XF_qh38

We were there yesterday. It was incredibly touching. The restaurant was full but there was no sense of crowding or being rushed because the entire operation ran like a well oiled machine. The organization was astounding. A cheerful Greek priest guided us to our seats. Tween-aged children provided drinks (and let's not forget those two Pie Guys with their smiles and trays of pumpkin and apple). We never met Louis, but his spirit was there yesterday. It's easy to feel like a cipher in our culture, but here is a man who has created something larger than himself, something that lives on with grace after him, thanks to his marvelous family. Ευχαριστώ

Great family. Great restaurant, great tradition. 'Nuff said.

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