V27-4 Anastasia June Travlos

Vol. XXVII No. 4 - WINTER 2016

By Kathy Gemperle

We all knew her as June and we are saddened to learn of her passing. June Travlos had just turned 91 in October. She was with her family, Tina Travlos Nihlean, Elaine Travlos and Ray Nihlean when she left us. June has been one of the pillars of the Edgewater community since she and her husband Gus moved here in 1961 onto the 5600 Block of North Kenmore Avenue. In fact, June and Gus were the first couple who got married at St. Andrews Greek Orthodox Church on Sheridan Road, while it was still under construction with the scaffolding still up.

Clare Tobin, who spent a lot of time with June, recently recalled that in the early 1960s and 1970s, Edgewater was undergoing major changes. Many people were moving to the suburbs while the apartment buildings along Kenmore and Winthrop were owned by absentee landlords who neglected to properly manage their buildings and let them deteriorate. June and Gus looked at their community and began taking steps to change things

EHS board member and former Edgewater Community Council president LeRoy Blommaert recalls meeting June for the first time in the alley behind where they lived.

“June was a strikingly beautiful women with blond hair and a very outgoing personality. She was pushing a baby carriage. The “baby” was either Tina or Elaine. He mentioned to her that there was a community meeting coming up at the Edgewater Presbyterian Church on crime and prostitution in the area and that it was important to have a large turnout. She said she would come and get her friends and neighbors to come. And she kept her word and there was a massive turnout. June remembered that first meeting too, and reminded LeRoy of it at almost every time they met in later years.

That may have been the beginning of a lifetime of community activity; June and Gus loved their neighborhood and immediately set about gathering their neighbors to help promote good management and to take many of the slum landlords to housing court. Another early initiative was to enlist the support of the 48th Ward Alderman. As Marion Volini remembers, “I was a newly elected Alderman, overseeing a planned streetscape improvement scheduled for Bryn Mawr, when June rushed into the office the day before construction was to begin, and announced with great alarm “There are no trees! There are no trees in this plan for Bryn Mawr.” She was right. Construction was stopped and plans were made to install trees. The presence of trees on the busy street changed everything. I can’t imagine Bryn Mawr without them.“

June and Gus were also among those active in founding the Edgewater Uptown Builders Association to promote development and cooperation among the multi-unit property owners and managers. They devoted their efforts to Edgewater Community Council, with their neighbor Jack Markowski as the first Executive Director. Jack who is now President of the Community Investment Corporation said, “We are indebted to those who had the vision to rebuild a greater urban community. When I first met Gus and June in 1980, the Winthrop-Kenmore area was in disarray. But there was no greater source of strength and stability than Gus and June Travlos and their family.”

Safety and beautification were the other aims of their work to improve the Bryn Mawr business district, and the Travlos family was involved in obtaining designation for the Bryn Mawr Historic business district. In fact long before the SSA was created, the Travlos family undertook trash removal from the trash containers along Bryn Mawr and June could be found planting the planters along the busy street.

Thom Greene, architect, Greene and Proppe Design, remembers working with June on the streetscaping of Bryn Mawr. June gave input on many of the details that transformed Bryn Mawr.

Beth Tenney, Owner and Designer of Anna Held Florist recalls, “The Travlos family has been a pillar in this community since I purchased my business in 1984 at Bryn Mawr and Sheridan. They are always willing to lend a hand or lead a charge”.

Despite the work on the streetscaping, one building stood out as an eyesore, the Walgreens building at Bryn Mawr and Winthrop. It was boarded up and looked terrible. June organized a group with Thom Greene to go over to the building and paint flowers on the boards. Kathy Gemperle remembers that her daughter, Francine was one of the painters, and she came away impressed with the drive and dedication June had when trying to solve a problem.

Peter Holsten, President of Holsten Real Estate Development and Management Co., stated “The Travlos family members were very supportive of my plans for the Bryn Mawr/Belle Shore redevelopment. Without Gus and June’s efforts, today’s Bryn Mawr would not have become a reality. The Travlos family stepped up by strongly encouraging the community to receive Historic District designation from the National Park Service – this led the way to businesses receiving Historic Tax Credits for redevelopment.”

Michael Chioros of Chioros Properties said “June was the Matriarch of Edgewater. She is now resting from her long life of hard work and tenacity. She will be in our hearts, minds and souls for the rest of our lives.”

June and her daughter Tina worked tirelessly to improve The Bryn Mawr Historic District and steadfastly supported and assisted throughout her lifetime the Edgewater Development Corporation, which today focuses on bringing new business to the community under the direction of Board President Tina Travlos Nihlean.

Tina remembers her mother: “Human beings continue through their good works that live beyond their lifetime, and by training the next generation to follow in their footsteps. June learned and valued good stewardship, business acumen and philanthropy from her father and mother before her. At her father’s passing, the King of Greece honored him with a philanthropic award, and many of his neighbors and associates remembered him long after. With kindness, boundless energy and happiness, every day June, in turn, guided her family to live out these principles. She will forever be remembered as a pioneer who cared for her community. She was a risk taker who believed that positive changes would happen if she showed others what was possible. The revitalization that she pioneered is evident in the healthy diverse community of Edgewater today.”

June’s legacy is here now in our community, in the very streets we walk. Her life is a testament to how a community can work together. And we must carry on her dedication to Edgewater.