Everyone who knew Aristides Alafouzos agreed on one thing: that he was not the kind of man to go unnoticed. His sharp mind, strong willpower and persistence came together with a sense of professionalism that has left its mark.
He had an instinct for success and the gift of foresight, and it is little surprise that he was the first Greek businessman to visit and fall in love with China, back in 1968, or that he forged new inroads in every career he chose.
A passionate conversationalist, he would never let something slide, especially with people he felt close to. “The newspaper is weak; it’s not how I imagined it,” is how he would often greet Kathimerini’s late editor-in-chief Antonis Karkagiannis.
You never knew if such criticism was in jest or whether it was meant to make us all stricter with ourselves. Whatever the intention, it certainly achieved the latter.
Kathimerini was Aristides Alafouzos’s big love in the second half of his life. He protected it from harm and – most importantly – fought for its independence.
Every so often, he would tell us a story about some prime minister (who it was is not important) making promises in exchange for a softer line.
“I didn’t buy the newspaper to do my business,” he would angrily retort every time he told us of such an incident. In fact, whenever he met with an acting premier or spoke to a minister, the only favors he would ask for pertained to Santorini: a parking lot for the buses in Oia, a walking trail to Armeni, another desalination plant.
Santorini was where he felt his troubles go away, where he became one with people who loved him because he was from there. He was a different man when he was on his island.
He would gaze over the caldera as he sat with his beloved wife Lena and when he received letters of thanks from the Oia elementary school students thanking him for the gifts he sent every Christmas, he would weep like a child.
Aristides Alafouzos will be sorely missed by all of us here at Kathimerini. He raised all the critical questions at our daily editorial meetings, he listened to others’ ideas and admitted when he was wrong. He weighed visitors cautiously, yet was always well-disposed – sometimes too much so.
His was a generation that saw a lot of strife. When he lost his father in the midst of war and occupation, he decided that he would protect his family. “We lived through some very difficult times, gentlemen, remember that,” he would say when he felt we were taking things for granted.
I have spent the past few hours thinking about his legacy.
He was such a powerful personality that even though he is no longer with us every day, he has etched into the very being of his family, this newspaper and every one of us individually the following principles: that we are citizens of the world; that we honor our commitments; that we be demanding and strict with others but foremost ourselves; that our work goes everywhere with us; that we are not in the newspaper business to make, nor of course to lose, money, and this is what keeps us independent.
We will miss him. He was our rock.