Sylvia Mehas, who with her husband ran the old Fresno Malt Shop and Athenian Restaurant in downtown Fresno and was a community leader and strong force in her children's lives, died Saturday. She was 94.
Mrs. Mehas was remembered for her dedication to her Greek Orthodox faith, her "old country" work ethic and her love -- and iron-fisted firmness -- with her children.
"She could hug and kiss you one moment, and if you're out of line she could whack you up, too," said her son, former Fresno County schools Superintendent Pete Mehas. "She was a passionate woman, but she was a loving woman ... We had chores to do, and if you didn't get your chores done there was hell to pay. There was a time I didn't do my chores and she let me have it, and she let me have it again."
The daughter of Greek immigrants, Mrs. Mehas was born in New Mexico in 1919 before moving to Fresno in 1935 with late husband George Mehas.
Mrs. Mehas and her husband operated the old Fresno Malt Shop and the Athenian Restaurant in downtown Fresno for years.
Mrs. Mehas personified community involvement, serving on multiple committees and boards throughout her life. She served on the Fresno County Grand Jury, Fresno County Solid Waste Committee, Fresno Chamber of Commerce Legislative Committee and numerous parent-teacher associations.
Active in Valley politics for many decades, Mrs. Mehas was a past president of the local Federation of Republican Women and an elected member of the Fresno County Republican Central Committee.
"She showed how civility should be in politics and enjoyed healthy interaction. I don't think she'd ever met a stranger that she didn't invite in. There was nothing pretentious about her," Pete Mehas said.
Mrs. Mehas and her family were also active supporting members of the St. George Greek Orthodox parish for more than 60 years. She was a founding member of the church choir and sang in it for more than 25 years, and taught Sunday school for 14 years, her family said.
In 1993, she was named Fresno County Mother of the Year.
"My sisters and I couldn't have asked for a more blessed mother. She really was the matriarch. She loved her family, she loved the community and she loved her faith," Pete Mehas said.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests all remembrances be sent to the St. George Greek Orthodox Church of Fresno.
Born: Jan. 24, 1919
Died: March 9, 2013
Occupation: Businesswoman, community leader
Survivors: Daughters Tulla Chrisman and Georgia Golling; son Peter Mehas; sisters Irene Papadakis and Caroline Liviakis; brothers Louis and Gus Gundanas; nine grandchildren; 15 great-grandchildren.
Services: 11 a.m. today, St. George Greek Orthodox Church, 2219 N. Orchard St., Fresno
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