Bergen Knights Chapter 285
"On August 27, 1931, wires crossed the Continent to and from San Francisco, California,
where the Supreme Convention was convening, and a new Chapter – the Bergen Knights – was born."
Source: The Ahepan Magazine (July - August, 1947)
Αιέν αριστεύειν - Ever to Excel
The phrase "Αιέν αριστεύειν" is from the sixth book of Homer's Illiad which translates to "Ever to Excel." A departed life-member of Ahepa and fellow Brother Knight – may his memory be eternal – shared this phrase with us during a meeting about a decade ago. Although, not officially part of the formal chapter meeting format, it was the last statement made by our brothers during the "Good of the Order" part of our chapter meetings throughout the decades that preceded us.
Our Brother Knight explained to us as it was explained to him by a founding member of our chapter and first chapter president Theodore C. Kiscaras (Brother Ted) decades ago that Homer's simple yet powerful phrase "Ever to Excel" served as a driving force behind the successes of the chapter.
Even when the chapter was not as successful in its endeavors the phrase, "Ever to Excel," served as the perfect mechanism for "failing forward." Failing forward was an idea coined by John C. Maxwell in his book Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success, where he explains that not fearing failure and knowing how to handle failure will lead to ongoing success.
The following is the history of the Order of Ahepa Bergen Knights Chapter #285 founded in Hackensack, New Jersey.
Our chapter history is probably no different than our other Ahepa family's chapter history. And by no means is our chapter history about how great our chapter is. This history is meant to inspire us -- the brothers and sisters of the Ahepa Family. It's meant to show us what we are capable of.
"Αιέν αριστεύειν" to Defend, Preserve and Promote Hellenism
Prelude to the "Brother Knights" - Our Chapter's Roots
The first Brothers of our chapter had originally been members of the "Knights of Saint George" established somewhere between the years 1918 and 1920 according to various sources. They lived in Passaic, Rutherford and Garfield, New Jersey and at the time -- as no Greek Orthodox church existed in the area -- they and their families were parishioners at local Russian Orthodox and Greek Catholic churches.
The mission of the Knights of Saint George was to establish a Hellenic Orthodox community to serve the spiritual needs of the Greek Orthodox in the townships of Bergen and Passaic counties that straddled the Passaic River.
By 1921, the Hellenic Orthodox Community of Bergen and Passaic Counties – Agios Georgios was founded. Religious services were originally held in the rooms above the Alps Restaurant on Main Avenue in Passaic. In March of 1923, the first Divine Liturgy was celebrated at their little church located on the second floor at 26 Bloomfield Avenue in Passaic, New Jersey.
Between 1924 and 1925, these and other Brother Knights were initiated into Alexander Hamilton AHEPA Chapter #54 located in Paterson, NJ. They would continue their good works as both members of the Order of AHEPA and as Knights of Saint George. However, as the Order of AHEPA grew in strength, influence and numbers the need for a separate organization dissipated.
As such, by May of 1931, the Knights of Saint George began their transition as plans were already in the works to form a new AHEPA Chapter and formally institute that new chapter in August of that year. Once the Bergen Knights chapter was established, the Knights of Saint George continued as a young men's organization until it subsequently became a Sons of Pericles chapter.
Our founding brothers originally contemplated naming our chapter the "Knights of Saint George," but decided to go with "Bergen Knights" instead -- to honor our roots and acknowledge our location in Hackensack (the Bergen County seat). The Saint George Chapter of the Sons of Pericles was subsequently established by the Bergen Knights to fully honor the original organization.
The "Brother Knights" Begin
"On August 27, 1931, wires crossed the Continent to and from San Francisco, California,
where the Supreme Convention was convening, and a new Chapter – the Bergen Knights – was born."
Source: The Ahepan Magazine (July - August, 1947)
On Thursday August 27th 1931, the 285th AHEPA chapter – The Bergen Knights – was instituted in Hackensack, NJ at 151 Main Street by these steadfast individuals:
Theodore C. Kiscaras, Pericles Kiscaras, George Cotsakis, Oliver Somerville, Peter Liveris, Takis Nicholaides, Michael Venich, George Petrohilos, Constantine Tzentis, Michael Jianelis, Paul L. Boyatzis, Duke G. Tavernaris, Minas Candaras, Nick C. Adoglou, Angel Naglou, Nick Callesis, Peter W. Karadontis, Elias Maras, William Psaraftis, Nick Vorvis, John Caros, Nicholas Demeris, Christ Sakelariou, Andrew E. Andronis, George E. Andronis, Charles Herman, Paul Mihas, Spiros Rorris, Photis Arvanitis
Jean M. Kossarides – Supreme Deputy Governor #2 – conducted the initiation of the new members and instituted the chapter into existence.
In a letter to National Headquarters, Brother Jean explained the logic as to why Hackensack was chosen:
Bergen Knights First Chapter Officers – 1931
The First Officers of the Bergen Knights
These "Brother Knights" would serve as officers in 1932 as well
Upon completion of the meeting, the Chapter's petition for a charter was finalized and sent to AHEPA National Headquarters in Washington DC.
The first regular meeting was held the following Thursday (September 3, 1931). The chapter would continue to meet twice a month – at first, the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of the month; then subsequently the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of the month.
By the end of 1931, The Bergen Knights Chapter 285 had grown to a total membership of 46 – 27 initiated members when the chapter was instituted; 17 members that transferred from Alexander Hamilton Chapter 54 (14) and Hudson Chapter 108 (3); and 2 members initiated at the meeting in December, 1931.
The First Members of the Bergen Knights
Membership continued to grow in 1932 with the initiations of Nick Psaraftis (January 21, 1932); and Peter Callas, Anthony N. Drugas & John Lekas (April 21, 1932). In addition Paul Bellevan, Peter Nessarhakes, Louis Varotesos and Gus M. Kossarides transferred from the Alexander Hamilton Chapter #54.
The Brother Knights continued to progress in 1932.
Supreme Deputy Governor Jean M. Kossarides transferred into the chapter on January 7th, 1932.
1932 ended on a positive note for AHEPA as Brother Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected President of the United States who was initiated into the order when governor of New York. Brother Kossarides was an advisor to FDR
"Brother Knights" and the Great Depression
Unfortunately, the Great Depression caught up with the Chapter in 1933 as it did with the rest of the nation. By 1933 – the height of the Great Depression – unemployment had risen from 3% to 25% of the nation’s workforce. Wages of those who still had jobs fell 42%. GDP was cut in half, from $103 to $55 billion.
Even as new members and transfers were joining the chapter, 30 percent of the existing chapter membership departed due to unemployment. The loss in membership also put the chapter in financial distress as the Bergen Knights still owed $540 (~ $9,000 today) in membership per capita for 1932 & 33.
The Bergen Knights were not the only chapter effected. In fact, all chapters in the AHEPA domain were impacted – some to a lesser extent; others to a greater extent.
Thanks to the efforts at the National, District and local levels, membership appeared to have stabilized by 1935. By the end of 1936, chapter membership grew to 52 members. On May 15th, the chapter commemorated its 5th Anniversary with a testimonial dinner honoring past Chapter Presidents at the Elks Dining Room in Hackensack, NJ
Our New Agios Georgios (1933)
In March of 1933, the Hellenic Orthodox Community of Bergen and Passaic Counties – Agios Georgios led by the Brother Knights purchased the Tresselt estate located on Lincoln Street in Passaic with the intent of converting it into a Greek Orthodox church in the "Byzantine style of architecture modeled after the world famous Saint Sophia in Constantinople."
According to the Passaic Herald-News:
On Sunday October 15th, 1933, the new St. George was consecrated by Athenagoras, Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America. The dedicatory service began at 10 am with the assistance of the pastor of the community, the Rev. John Strongilos and the pastors of the Greek Orthodox communities of Paterson, Newark and Jersey City.
Members of the Bergen Knights and the neighboring AHEPA Chapters – Eureka Chapter #52 in Newark, Alexander Hamilton Chapter #54 in Paterson and Hudson Chapter 108 in Jersey City – participated in the service.
The new St George's Church is a very simple reproduction of St Sophia in Constantinople, known throughout the world to be the most perfect example of Byzantine architecture. The seating capacity of the Passaic church is 125 persons, and below the church proper the auditorium and a small stage have been built. The community of St. George has doubled since work on the new church building was begun only months ago. Originally comprising the territory covered by the surrounding towns of Clifton, Garfield Lodi, Lyndhurst and Rutherford, the boundaries of the community have been extended to include Cliffside Park. Palisades Park, Leonia and Hackensack.
Officers and trustees of the church are deserving of much praise for their untiring efforts in the erection of this fine building. Prior to this, the Greek speaking people of this community worshipped for eleven years at 21 Broadway. The board of trustees is as follows -- Christy Grivakis, president; Paul Bellevan, vice-president; Jean M. Kossarides, secretary; Peter Andreakos, treasurer; Michael Jianelis, Michael Kotchikas, A. Tsakiria, A. Moulakls and Peter Messarhakis.
Source: Herald-News (Passaic, NJ) 16 October 1933
At the banquet, Brother Jean M. Kossarides – alluding to a core AHEPA principle and our chapter's driving force as an organization of "deeds and not words" – paid tribute to the board of trustees stating that they were:
"Men of action rather than words, and that they had proved themselves to be the staunchest soldiers during the past months." (Source: Passaic Herald-News)
The Lincoln Street location would serve the community until the 818 Valley Road location in Clifton was opened.
During the 50th anniversary of the Saint George community, ground-breaking ceremonies took place in December, 1971 for the St. George, Clifton location. A new generation of Brother Knights were eagerly involved in establishing another parish. Peter Karas – AHEPA District 5 Governor at the time – spearheaded the effort.
The Brother Knights gladly rose to the occasion once again.
Over the years, the Brother Knights had built up the experience with the first two iterations of Saint George; Ascension in Fairview (1952); and Saint John the Theologian (1969). It's as if it had become part of the chapter's DNA.
Our Community Greek School (1933)
The Greek School of Saint George in Passaic had been well established by 1933. However, the need arose for an additional Greek School, but in Bergen County.
The goal was to "establish a Greek School in the city of Hackensack that will employ one or more instructors of Greek language and history." (Bergen Record, January 4, 1933).
The AHEPA Bergen Knights worked in conjunction with the Sappho Hellenic Ladies Educational Society. By June of 1933, the Community Greek School program had been firmly established at the State Street School in Hackensack.
This program would later serve as a model at Hackensack High School and other public high schools in Bergen County.
At the time Sappho, though furthered by the AHEPA Bergen Knights, was not an auxiliary. Sappho would later be part of the Daughters of Saint George and eventually become the Daughters of Penelope Kronos Chapter (circa 1947).
1936 - Bergen Knights Commemorate 5th Anniversary
In addition to the regular business conducted by the chapter, the Bergen Knights hosted and/or participated in multiple events to commemorate the 5th Anniversary as AHEPA Chapter.
The Bergen Knights kicked off the year when the chapter installed their newly elected officers in a public ceremony at the St. George Greek Orthodox Church auditorium (Passaic, NJ) in the presence of over 300 attendees.
Outgoing chapter president Brother Sam Rorris introduced Brother Jean M. Kossarides as master of ceremonies. Brother Jean spoke on the ideals of the Order of AHEPA and outlined its program.
Brother John G. Thevos of NYU Law School, past supreme secretary of the Sons of Pericles and a member of Alexander Hamilton Chapter #54 (Paterson, NJ) installed the following officers:
Paul Bellevan, president; John C. Vasiliou, vice-president; Michael Grammas, secretary; Nick Sapios, treasurer; Gus Lendrihas, chaplain; John Bellias, warden; Gus M. Kossarides, sentinel; Steven Malandris, captain of the guard; Sam Rorris, chairman of the board of governors; Tom Manias, Jean M. Kossarides, Gus Ellis and Michael Basile as governors.
AHEPA District Governor Spiros Papayliou spoke on the Hellenic pioneers of America. Arthur Nickas, president of Alexander Hamilton Chapter #54 and Peter Zervas, past president of Hermes Chapter of New York, attended with delegations from their districts.
Source: Herald News. February 2, 1936
Memorial for ex-Prime Minister Venizelos of Greece
The original plan was to host a Greek Independence Day celebration on Sunday March 22, 1936 at Saint George Greek Orthodox Church in Passaic. Instead, a memorial service and requiem was held for the former Prime Minister, Eleftherios Kyriakou Venizelos, who had passed away the previous Wednesday (March 18, 1936) in Paris.
Venizelos was elected eight times as Prime Minister of Greece, serving from 1910 to 1920 and from 1928 to 1933. He had such profound influence on the internal and external affairs of Greece that he is credited with being "The Maker of Modern Greece."
The Bergen Knights and the Passaic Community participated in what was described by The Herald-News as an "impressive service."
Bergen Knights & Saint George Mark Greek Independence Day
On Sunday March 29, 1936 the Bergen Knights and the Saint George community celebrated the 115th anniversary of Greek Independence that started with a special church service at 9 a.m. with Rev. John Strongilos officiating and ended with a patriotic program of entertainment in the evening at the Moose Hall, 15 River Drive in Passaic.
The Bergen Knights under the leadership appeared in full regalia at the morning church service under the leadership of Paul Bellevan representing the Order of AHEPA. Chapter members participated in many of the evening events.
Source: Herald News. March 30, 1936
Past Chapter Presidents Testimonial Dinner
On May 15th,1936 the Bergen Knight held a testimonial dinner honoring past Chapter Presidents at the Elks Dining Room in Hackensack, NJ. Past Chapter Presidents honored were Brothers Theodore Kiscaras, Samuel Rorris and Jean M. Kossarides.
United States Congressman Edward A. Kenney, State Finance Commissioner Bernard H. Lamb and Mayor Douglas O. Mead of Rutherford, were among the honored guests and speakers at the affair. All three are members of the Bergen Knights.
Brothers Theodore Kiscaras, Samuel Rorris and Jean M. Kossarides each received past presidents' jewels from Past District Governor Andrew Angelson.
Congressman Kennev lauded the fine work of the three past presidents in building up the Bergen Knights Chapter since its founding In 1931 and praised The Order of Ahepa for its work In making its members conscious of their rights and duties as citizens of the United States.
Lamb urged members of AHEPA to interest themselves in government, saying thst there was "nothing closer to real Christian endeavor than assisting in the government."
He pointed out that political misinformation was a great danger and asked listeners to study their government and the men in it to better acquit themselves as citizens. Lamb declared that, although he disagreed with some, most in public life In New Jersey today are trying to do the right thing.
Other honored guests and speakers included Paul Bellevan. president of the Bergen Knights Chapter; Augustus Rogokos. supreme treasurer; Elias L. Amoss, past president of Delphi Chapter in New York City, and J. F. Stewart. Supreme Governor George Demopoulos of Rhode Island was the toast-muster.
Felix J. Christ, chairman of the committee in charge. before introducing Demopoulos expressed himself pleased that "the committee and I are able to undertake such a noble task and help to honor those who faithfully performed the work of AHEPA and managed the destiny of our chapter in its initial years."
Harold O. Hodman, Governor of the State of New Jersey sent a telegram expressing his regrets at being unable to attend.
Source: Bergen Record. May 16, 1936
Supreme President V.I. Chebithes Honored
Known as "Supreme President's Night" – an annual event -- the affair attracted over 200 people on Wednesday September 23, 1936. The event was held at the Junior Order Hall on Gamewell Street in Hackensack, New Jersey.
Among other dignitaries present were Supreme Treasurer August Rogogos (Alexander Hamilton Chapter #54) and District Secretary George Galanis (Plainfield, NJ Chapter).
Bergen Knights Chapter President Paul Bellevan presided over the event. Brother Paul also introduced the other chapter officers. Members of the clergy who were presented included the Rev. D. Stephanopoulos of St. Athanasius (Paterson, NJ) and Rev. Nichloas Daniel of St. George (Passaic, NJ).
Source: Bergen Record. September 24, 1936
Parishioners & Bergen Knights Celebrate 4th Anniversary of Saint George Church
The 4th anniversary of the dedication of St. George's Hellenic Orthodox Church was observed on Thursday October 15, 1936 with a special vesper service at which His Grace Athenagoras, Archbishop of North and South America, officiated with the assistance of the Rev. Nicholas Daniel, pastor.
Following the service, Brother Jean M. Kossarides spoke on the accomplishments and future programs of the Order of Ahepa. His talk also included lantern slides depicting the wonders of Greece yesterday and today.
Archbishop Athenagoras commended the Bergen Knights Chapter and the Order of Ahepa for the founding of churches, schools and seminaries in the United States; all outstanding examples of the co-operation of the Order of Ahepa with the church. The chapter was also commended by His Grace for their leadership, effort and contributions in further establishing the Hellenic Orthodox community of St. George in Passaic.
Source: The Herald-News. October 16, 1936
By the end of 1936, chapter membership grew to 60 members.
News Clippings from the 1930's
Bergen Knights Annual Christmas Parties for Children
The annual Christmas party actually pre-dates the founding of the Bergen Knights Chapter and the chapter continued to host this annual event over many decades.
Over time, however, our 3 Greek Orthodox parishes (St. George, Ascension, St. John the Theologian) established their own community Christmas events and the need for the chapter to sponsor a separate event waned as it made sense for our 3 parishes to take the lead in hosting.
Instead, around the time St. Basil’s Academy (Garrison, New York) was established, the Bergen Knights (and other chapters) have supported and participated in the annual Christmas event at St. Basil’s Academy.
The chapter continues to carry on that tradition today. In addition, and more recently, the Bergen Knights have sponsored a few trips for the children to Medieval Times (Lyndhurst, NJ) and the Big Apple Circus (Manhattan).
Greek Independence Day
Bergen Knights Chapter President Felix Christ led the procession into the church behind "large silk American and Greek Flags and the richly emblazoned" Bergen Knights Chapter Banner.
The Bergen Knights continue the chapter’s tradition of commemorating Greek Independence Day. For the past decade or so, the Bergen Knights along with the other 2 Bergen County AHEPA Chapters -- Alexander Hamilton Chapter #54 (Paramus, NJ), Ramapo Chapter #453 (Wyckoff, NJ) co-host an annual ceremony with the Office of the Bergen County Executive in Hackensack, NJ.
In 2021, the 3 chapters participated in a Greek Flag Raising Ceremony in Paterson. In addition, the Bergen Knights hosted a ceremony in Englewood Cliffs, NJ to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of Greek Independence.
1940 District Convention
District 5 Convention hosts 3,000 members of Ahepa Family in Plainfield, NJ. Captain Jean M. Kossarides unanimously re-elected to third term as District 5 Governor.
Brother Jean leads District 5 chapters to raise first installment of $25,000 (equivalent to ~$500,000 today) for the American Red Cross War Relief Fund (Bergen Record. July 11, 1940).
Although Greece used every means within reason to avoid retaliation and war, on October 28, 1940, Italian Ambassador Grazzi called upon Greek Prime Minister John Metaxas at 3 a.m. with an ultimatum, which was actually a declaration of war.
The ultimatum was that Italy demanded the right to occupy with her armed forces and for the duration of the war with England, a number of strategic points in Greek territory, and that Greece must not oppose or resist such occupation.
Metaxas had three hours in which to reply, but his immediate reply was: "OXI!"
OXI became a symbol and watchword for Greece in the war that followed and which began with fighting at 5:30 a.m. the same morning, October 28, 1940, on the Albanian border.
Despite numerical and superior forces thrown by Italy against Greece, the Greeks held their own for weeks, and then began to rout the Italian armies.
From October 28, 1940 until April 6, 1941, the Greek soldiers defeated the Italians in almost every action, and were ready, and actually had crossed the border into Albania. Hitler then finally had to go to Mussolini's rescue, although it forced him to alter his attack on Russia.
With German soldiers, tanks, and devastating air power, Hitler's armies defeated Greece in a little more than 3 weeks, but this momentary diversion by the German armies gave the Allies invaluable time, and the delay actually proved fatal to the German plans to conquer Russia.
For Greece, it was a costly, destructive war, and the country was plunged into years of terrible hardship under German and Italian rule. Although able to withstand the two-to-one and sometimes three-to-one odds of the Italian armies, whom they defeated, the Greek army was unable to withstand the giant, continuous blows that the Germans struck in their invasion.
Bergen County Greek War Relief Effort
Bergen Knights launch fund-raising drives for defense of Greece in her war against Axis Powers. Chapter. As reported by the Bergen Record, the first fund-raising meeting was held on November 13, 1940 in Hackensack.
"Pledges of aid totaled $1,061 [2021 equivalent: $20,750] when members and friends of Bergen Knights 285, Order of Ahepa, brought the to a close long after midnight."
November 14th -- $1,311 has been collected, surpassing the $1,061 pledged; Bergen Knights set additional goal of $15,000 for emergency relief help to Greece. The chapter establishes the "Bergen County Fund-Raising Committee for Greek War Relief" with its official headquarters located at 200 Main Street in Hackensack, NJ.
Within a month the Greek War Relief committee re-located its headquarters to larger facilities at the Park Lane Theater in Palisades Park, NJ. Co-owned by a Brother Knight, the use of the facilities were donated.
The committee expanded rapidly with the addition of Bergen County Philhellenes, most of which also joined the Bergen Knights chapter thanks to the reputation of the chapter in Bergen County; and the associations our Brother Knights had made with them over the years
Each and every committee member provided donations, resources and their time in the Greek War Relief effort.
For example, Honorary Chairman John Borg – owner, publisher and editor of the Bergen Record – published the "Greece! Don’t Let it Be Too Little – Too Late" advertisement prominently in the Record at least once per week.
He convinced other newspaper publishers of the time to run the advertisement on a regular basis – this all at no cost to the Greek War Relief effort and the Bergen Knights. News updates were regularly published in the Record as was in the past about the chapter, but for the Greek War Relief effort a beat-writer was specifically assigned.
By the end of 1940, the goal of $15,000 was not only pledged, but had already been collected. In 1941, a new goal was established to raise an additional $25,000
Thanks to various sources, we have been able to confirm that at least $55,000 was raised in 3 months during 1940 and 1941(November, December, January). In today’s dollars, that equates to slightly over $1,000,000 raised.
A choral benefit concert took place at Teaneck High School on January 22, 1941. Sussane Fisher (Soprano) and Clifford Mens (Tenor) accompanied the Teaneck High School Chorus.
"The Teaneck Chorus, Metropolitan Opera performers, Bergen Knights and the Greek War Relief Committee of Bergen County are to be congratulated for their splendid contributions." -- Teaneck Mayor Milton Votee
Over 1,000 people attended the event as the Teaneck High School auditorium was filled to capacity.
On February 8, 1941 the National & Mutual Radio Broadcasting Systems aired an hour-and-half all-star program. Bergen Knights Chapter President Felix Christ organized the program and convinced both national radio systems to broadcast the event. Brother Felix also was instrumental in securing appearances from Bob Hope and Jack Benny. In 1949, Bob Hope and Jack Benny paid a visit to the Bergen Knights chapter.
By the end of February, an additional $60,000 was raised for the Greek War Relief effort in Bergen County.
The Polo Match
Among the many fund-raising events hosted at the time, the one that stands out for its uniqueness was the Polo match at Pegasus in Rockleigh, New Jersey. On April 20, 1941. We are 99.99% certain that no one else in the AHEPA Family has ever hosted this type of event.
Brother Jean M. Kossarides was re-elected as District Governor on June 10, 1941 at the District 5 Convention held in Newark, NJ.
The War Bond Drive
On October 28, 1942, a coast-to-coast radio broadcast over The Blue Network launched the American Hellenic $50,000,000 War Bond Drive, sponsored by the Order of Ahepa October 28, 1942 was the second anniversary of the Italian attack against Greece, and the broadcast included U.S. Representative Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Supreme President George C. Vournas, Gary Cooper, Greek actress Katina Paxinou, and Greek baritone Nicola Moscona.
It was also announced that the Order of Ahepa had been named as an official Issuing Agent for U.S. War Bonds, by the U.S. Treasury Department, an honor achieved by no other civic organization, insofar as records show. Quotas were assigned to all Ahepa Districts for the final goal of $50,000,000 to be reached by the Ahepa in War Bond Sales within the four months (October 28, 1942 to Feb. 22, 1943).
The Ahepa drive for War Bond sales started simultaneously throughout the United States.
At this juncture, the Bergen Knights Chapter was heavily involved in the Greek War Relief effort, American Hellenic War Bond Drive, The Red Cross War Relief Drive and was able to meet all its other obligations to defend, preserve and promote Hellenism.
1947 - Ahepan Magazine Silver Anniversary Edition
For the Silver Anniversary Edition of the Ahepan Magazine (July - August, 1947) the Bergen Knights submitted the following.
On August 27, 1931, wires crossed the Continent to and from San Francisco, California, where the Supreme Convention was convening, and a new Chapter – the Bergen Knights – was born.
Since that evening the Bergen Knights has written a brilliant history. They participated in the drive for the Pomfret School [Holy Cross Seminary in Pomfret, CT], contributing from the Chapter's treasury to insure success of the programs in AHEPA policies. It supported the Community Greek School in that city. Many of its former students are now returned from service and are active, young Ahepans.
The Chapter was behind the Sanatorium and Scholarship Plan and was successful in all drives to aid them. During the recent world struggle the Chapter sold over a quarter million dollars worth of War Bonds for the government.
TThe Chapter's benevolence did not stop here. There were various social functions for the benefit of sundry philanthropic agencies such as the Red Cross and the Community Chest. The Chapter's remarkable and successful campaign to aid the Greek War Relief became known as an outstanding example throughout the state in its clothing drive which accounted for five thousand articles of clothing mended, sorted and placed for immediate export.
Recently the Chapter sent a new precedent in furthering the aims and ideals of AHEPA by presenting to Hackensack High School an Honor Athletic Award which consists of a beautiful bronze plaque with spaces for inscribing the name each year of the student which contributes most in furthering the ancient ideals for a balanced life as strived for by the ancient Greeks.
Saint George Chapter of the Sons of Pericles was established by the Ahepa in Hackensack.
These Ahepans and the newer brothers will continue to advance its principles.
Since 1944, the name of the senior Hackensack High School athlete – who has done the most for the advancement of athletics and has embodied the ideal of perfection of a sound mind in a sound body for a balanced life as strived for by the Ancient Greeks – has been engraved on this plaque.
'A sound mind in a sound body' is the English translation of – "Νοῦς ὑγιὴς ἐν σώματι ὑγιεῖ" as inscribed on the plaque – a famous quotation by the Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus (624 – 546 BC), demonstrating the close links between physical exercise and mental equilibrium.
1947 Bergen Knights Chapter Officers
President, Harry Petrides; Vice-President, John Bellias; Secretary, Peter Kyriakakis; Treasurer, Louis Louzides.
Board of Governors, Stephen Delphi (Chairman), Louis Krickelas, Theodore Kiscaras, Markos Afentakis.
Chaplain, Paul Bellevan; Captain of the Guard, Jean M. Kossarides, Jr.; Warden, Andrew A. Andrones; Sentinal, Constantine Lendrihas.
1961 - AHEPA Bergen Knights Celebrate 30th Anniversary
Kiscaras Praises Chapter; Tells Aim of Group
Theodore C. Kiscaras, United States Commissioner, Saturday night lauded the American Hellenic Education Progressive Association chapter at its 30th anniversary celebration. Kiscaras was among the Bergen County, New Jersey men who organized the Bergen Knights Chapter on August 27th 1931. Among the other founders present were George Andriotes, John Carter, Andrew E. Andrones and Michael Kotchikas.
After reviewing the early struggles of the chapter, Kiscaras said:
"We the pioneers, have done our job, it is the turn of the second generation to take over and from what I have seen, AHEPA is in really good hands.
We formerly had to Americanize our fellow immigrants, but now we have to be part of the American people.
Looking around today I can see the result of years of work. The original Greek-Americans are now established, respected and proud of their two countries and the young Americans of Greek descent are a credit to us and this great country of ours.
"What we set out to do back in 1931 was crowned with success. AHEPA has a new role and a new dedication. It is not anymore to instill and to teach basic tenets, but rather, in close cooperation with our churches, it has the role of promoting good will."
The Brother Knights of Today
Some Fun on Super Bowl Sundays
Our annual Super Bowl Party brings our Chapter together for fun food, drink and the game. The funds raised during this event goes towards our multiple philanthropic endeavors.
Flag Raising Ceremony in Commemoration of Greek Independence
Annually in March we participate with our neighboring Bergen County chapters, Alexander Hamilton #54 (Paramus) and Ramapo #453 (Wyckoff), in organizing a celebration for our Greek Independence Day hosted by the Office of the Bergen County Executive in Hackensack, New Jersey.
We – along with our fellow chapters and the Bergen County Executive – honor outstanding individuals of Hellenic descent for their service to the community at large.
There is also Greek dancing, singing, entertainment and plenty of Greek Food to follow.
Prior to AHEPA Sunday, the Bergen Knights participated annually at two commemoration events at St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Passaic – Greek Independence and the feast day of St. George.
Since the establishment of AHEPA Sunday by the Archdiocese and occurs on the third Sunday in May, our chapter recognizes and honors an outstanding group of individuals.
We present our Bergen Knights Scholarships to High School Seniors and honor an individual for their outstanding contributions to the community.
The Bergen Knights Car Show
"Just a few miles from New York City, the AHEPA Bergen Knights Car Show show promises to be a metro-area
collection of everything from exotic Italian trailer queens and to daily-driver American muscle cars. The
festivities last all day, and all proceeds will benefit charity"
– New York Times (August 23, 2013)
On September 21, 2013, we hosted our first ever AHEPA Bergen Knights Car & Cycle Show for Cancer Research with proceeds benefitting the AHEPA District 5 Cancer Research Foundation and Alex's Lemonade Stand for Childhood Cancer Research. Since then and thanks to the participants and our sponsors we have funded over 300 hours towards cancer research.
In addition to the research we funded, the car & cycle show has become a community event with members of the Saint John the Theologian's GOYA, Boy Scout and Girl Scout Troops and others volunteering and attending. Since the event's inception, each year we have been blessed with beautiful weather; a stellar mixture of older and newer cars and motorcycles. We have had a festive atmosphere with music, food and prizes and trophies being given out.
We are grateful to our event chairman, Brother Joe Spaccavento for his tireless effort in making our car and cycle show a success over the years.
2013 Bergen Knights Car Show
Our Brother Knights
Brother Theodore C. Kiscaras
Our First Chapter President
Brother Ted was born in Pylos, Greece in 1899 and came to the United States in 1912. He settled in Rutherford, NJ in 1920 and moved to North Caldwell, NJ in 1968. He graduated from Bucknell University and then received his law degree from New York University Law School in 1929.
A life member of AHEPA, he was initiated into Alexander Hamilton Chapter #54 in Paterson, NJ. As a member of the Bergen Knights, he served as chapter president from its founding in 1931 until 1933. Brother Ted also served as chapter secretary in addition to other roles including District Secretary and Editor of the AHEPA Voice District 5 magazine. Brother Ted also served the Greek Orthodox Community of Saint George, both in Passaic and then Clifton, NJ.
Brother Theodore C. Kiscaras passed away on March 21, 1979 at the age of 80.
Brother Nicholas Vagionis
Brother Nicholas Vagionis is credited with organizing the first of the annual Greek Independence Day parades in New York City, celebrating the anniversary of Greek independence in 1821.
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