Tuesday, April 23, 1991
Caramihalis Leaves Behind A Legacy, Many Friends
by Paul M. Dest
SPRINGVALE – John M. Caramihalis Sr. was known statewide as the ‘Father of Maine School Boy Wrestling', a designation well earned. In Sanford and Springvale, he was also known as a good husband and father who was dedicated to his community.
Last week, Caramihalis died unexpectedly at age 61, leaving behind many friends and a wrestling legacy that will live on for years.
"He's not somebody you leave very easily behind", said Dr., Paul Derboven of Dover, NH, a long time friend of John Caramihalis. "He's not someone you forget".
"When you needed a friend he was always there," said Ralph H. Ross of Sanford, who has known Caramihalis for 30 years. "He was a good husband, a good father, a good citizen".
A man with multiple talents and interests, Caramihalis was best known in Sanford and throughout northern New England for his love of wrestling. He coached, taught, refereed, and promoted the sport with a passion. "It was his hobby more than his job," said Richard Faulkner of Sanford, who has Sanford High's wrestling team for a combined seven years. "He was always interested in the sport. He was always there to help with the program and was the stabilizing influence. He will be sorely missed".
"He was a great promoter of wrestling," said Keith Kalman of Sanford, a former Sanford High wrestling coach who was on Caramihalis' team that won the New England championships in 1964. "He put wrestling on the map".
From 1958 to 1985, Caramihalis coached wrestling teams in Maine, and during that time won eight state championships.
Caramihalis was also a wrestling coach at the former Nasson College and was an official at the U. S. Olympic trials in New York in 1964. In recognition of his dedication to the sport, the Maine State Legislature in 1985 recognized him as the ‘Father of School Boy Wrestling in Maine'. Further honors came when he was the first person inducted into the Maine Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Caramihalis' road to wrestling fame and his other accomplishments began in Sanford. Born the son of Michael J. and Anne Seferlis Caramihalis, John M. Caramihalis graduated from Sanford High School in 1949. He went on to get a bachelor's degree from Springfield College in Springfield, MA in 1953 and a master's from Boston University in 1958. From 1953 to 1955 he served in the Army during the Korean War.
After a brief teaching post at Edward Little High School in Auburn, he returned to Springvale to teach physical education at Sanford High. He also started the first high school wrestling program in Maine.
Ralph Ross of Sanford, a retired district court judge, met Caramihalis after Ross' wife Irene took a driver's education course from him in the early 1960s. John and his wife Kay Pappamihiel Caramihalis established a friendship with the Rosses, and the two couples would do many things together.
Among his many other interests, Ross and Caramihalis enjoyed traveling. The couples took trips to Rome, Greece, Canada and Florida together. Ross said they spent many Friday evenings at each other's homes.
"John enjoyed life to the nth degree," said Ross.
"He enjoyed life tremendously," added Derboven, noting that Caramihalis particularly loved the outdoors. Caramihalis hunted, fished and gardened, hiked and was a member of the venerable Springvale Fish and Game Club. This weekend, "we were supposed to spend a couple hours walking in the woods in Shapleigh," said Derboven.
Caramihalis was not afraid to pursue new interest. In his mid-30s he went back to school in 1965 to get an advanced degree from Duke University in North Carolina I physical therapy. He subsequently helped establish the first physical therapy department at H. D. Goodall Hospital and Hillcrest Manor.
In 1973, he began a new venture when he and his wife established Park View Homes for the Elderly in Sanford. He served as president and was active in the business until his unexpected death last week.
Over the years, Caramihalis served on the school board, was active in community events such as fishing derbies and taught and coached football, baseball and basketball.
Despite all his interest, Caramihalis was first a family man. "He was a great father," said his son John M. Jr. of Shapleigh, "and he loved to spend time with his grandchildren".
Ross, who saw Caramihalis the evening before he died, was ‘shocked' when he heard the news. "I couldn't believe it. He was in very good spirits".
Although he is gone, town sports will continue to benefit from Caramihalis' efforts.
Kalman said the work of Caramihalis helped Sanford teams even after he left coaching. "The tradition that he built will continue," said Kalman.
Once again this year, Sanford High School, which has won more wrestling championships than any other school in Maine, took the state title at a tournament held in Sanford. John M. Caramihalis Sr. was in the stand that day watching.
John M. Caramihalis is survived by his mother and his wife of 40 years; a son, John M. Jr. of Shapleigh; four daughters, Mrs. Gordon (Ann) Cutten of Shapleigh, Mrs. John (Jae) Simonds of Springvale, Mrs. T. J. (Joanne) Metz of Alfred and Mrs. John (Marcia) Pitcher of Newfield; and nine grandchildren, Catherine Caramihalis, Selena Caramihalis, Alexis Cutten, Richard Cutten, Deirdre Cutten, Christina Simonds, Jessica Metz, Thomas Metz and Sally Pitcher.