Vasilios “Bill” Konstantinos Matheos better known as “God Bless America” or “Bobby" of Jackson, Mississippi passed away at his home on October 11, 2020. He was 85 years old.
Bill’s life story reads like an adventure novel, recounting tales that transformed a young European villager into a larger-than-life American patriot, business-owner, husband, father, grandfather and friend. Bill was born on July 15, 1935 on the small island of Thassos, Greece in the North Aegean Sea. The son of a fisherman father and a mother renowned for her cooking throughout the Greek village, young Bill quickly learned the values of family and hard work, and the joy that cooking brings to people – all of which shaped Bill’s long and colorful life.
As a young man, Bill joined the Greek Navy and served for three years. During his naval service, Bill honed his cooking skills as a chef, and began plotting his next big adventure – immigrating to America. From 1963-1968, Bill unsuccessfully attempted to immigrate by “jumping ship” to America on three separate occasions in New York, Baton Rouge, and Galveston. Though he was deported to Greece after each attempt, he ultimately found immigration success and a path to American citizenship in Houston, Texas in 1968. It was then that he “won the lottery” as he said when he met and married young Judy Harrison, who became his wife of 52 years and the love of his life until the time of his passing.
In 1972, Bill and Judy had moved to Mississippi, and in that year, they opened a restaurant that became a Jackson landmark in family, social, and political circles for 46 years. He owned, managed, and held court at the restaurant under the name “Bill’s Burger House” until he decided to return to his young Thassos cooking roots, and he converted the burger house to a Greek seafood restaurant known as “Bill’s Greek Tavern.” Bill’s two daughters Eleni, “The Trustmark Bank Lady”, (1972) and Kostas, “The Doctor”, (1977) grew up working alongside Bobby and Juju at “The Hut”. He frequently said, “a little hard work never hurt anyone”.
As the owner and cook, Bill spent days and nights in his restaurant with his loyal customers, many of whom he considered dear friends and extended family members. Bill had a heart of gold and never met a stranger. With his Mediterranean menu offerings, and his loud and constant bellows of “God Bless America” throughout the restaurant, customers flocked to enjoy Bill’s great food, patriotism, and fun demeanor. He often shared his mother’s advice that there are three things you need to be concerned about: women, fire and water. Two of Bill’s most loyal customers were Mississippi literary giants Willie Morris and Eudora Welty, the latter of which considered Bill’s Greek Tavern to be her favorite restaurant. The restaurant was successfully open for 47 years until he and Judy got sick in 2017 and had to close it.
In his later years, Bobby enjoyed spending time with his family and friends, watching football games, and playing cards. His favorite activity was spending time with his only grandchild, Nicholas, and his troops. Bobby constantly referred to Nicholas as “my best friend in the world.” Bobby also had a four-legged friend- a yellow lab named Ally which he referred to as his “granddaughter.”
Bill is lovingly remembered and survived by his wife of 52 years, Judy; daughters, Eleni Matheos Sanford and Kostas Matheos; grandson, Nicholas Matheos Sanford; granddaughter, Ally Matheos; sister, Tasoula Boras; niece, Eleni Matheos Tsompanoglou and her husband Fotis; brother-in-law, Neil Harrison; sister-in-law, Julie Harrison.
Special thanks to William Castle, MD, Lee Ferguson, MD, Patrick Daily, MD, and the staff at Fresenius Kidney Care, (Lakeland Drive) and their staff.
Elias Dabit “The Boss”, Theo Gouras “Malak”, Justin Harrison “Justi”, Neil Harrison “My Brother-in-law” Raymond Harrison “Ray Ray”, Nicholas Sanford “My Best Friend”, Nabil Shayeb “My Brother”, Brandon White “The Lawyer”
Sims Abney, Tripp Cory, Thad Crawford, Ross Hopkins, Emory Maxwell, Charlie Ott, Carter Stockett, Thomas Thornton, Jay Waits, Will Waits
Friends that made the voyage to Bill’s home Thassos Greece:
These special friends went to Bill’s home in Greece. They were able to see the olive trees on the island of Thassos, Greece: Dr. Kay Kay Brantley Rosamond, Lt. Governor Eddie Briggs, The late Greg Clifton, Bill Cossar, Blair Ainsworth Criminger, Loris Nejam Davis, the late Glen Dewease, Theo Gouras, Neil Harrison, Ellen Hontzas, Tommy Hontzas, Sandy Sanford, Anastasia Hontzas Seavers, Laura Luckett Spencer, Katherine Sykes, and Leigh Singletary Tucker.
Visitation will be held on Thursday, October 15, 2020 at 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at Parkway Funeral Home, 1161 Highland Colony Parkway, Ridgeland, Mississippi 39157.
A graveside ceremony will be held at Hollywood Cemetery, 900 Pennsylvania Avenue, McComb, Mississippi 39648 at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, October 16, 2020.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Mississippi Diabetes Foundation https:\\msdiabetes.org.