Longtime Ypsilanti business owner Ted Tangalakis dies at 94
Ted Tangalakis, the owner of Campus Drugs who was known and loved by generations of Eastern Michigan University students and Ypsilanti community members, died on Thursday in Ann Arbor at age 94.
Tangalakis arrived in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area to set up his shop in 1946. Because he was a small-town boy from St. Louis, Mich., and his wife was a big-city girl from Chicago, the couple compromised and settled in a mid-sized town, Tangalakis's son, Dean Tangalakis, says.
Although a graduate of Alma College, Tangalakis quickly became a fixture in Ypsilanti at Campus Drugs, which was located on Cross Street across the university. He was deeply involved with EMU's students and community, so much so that the university honored him with its first Citizen of the Year Award, honorary alumnus status, an honorary doctorate of business degree and many other awards. Students also showed their appreciation by making Tangalakis an honorary member of Kappa Phi Alpha and Kappa Kappa Psi fraternities.
Tangalakis “adopted'' EMU and had a close relationship with students, faculty, staff, administration and alumni, said Dean Tangalakis.
“He accepted those awards humbly and he never wore it on his sleeve,'' Dean Tangalakis said. "He did it because he loved the university community.
“He touched literally thousands of lives. He was the type of guy who wanted to serve the community and wasn’t interested in having a huge business. He knew his clientele, he knew the community and wanted to be of service to them.”
One EMU graduate who said she can fondly recall seeing Tangalakis working in his white coat with a smile on his face every day is Ypsilanti Police Chief Amy Walker.
“He was so proud to be a Huron. He loved the university, students and city," Walker said. "All the Tangalakis family, they go way back. People like them are fewer and further between, and they are people you aspire to be like. Their passion for the city and university is unmatched.”
After graduating from EMU, Walker joined the university’s police force before the YPD. In those positions, she came to appreciate the role Tangalakis played in the community and what a model business owner he was.
“That family has been a shining example of business owners that you can only wish for,” Walker said. “They’re supporters of the city and Ted was a man who was passionate about the city and university, and that kind of person is hard to find these days. He will be missed.”
EMU President Sue Martin said she met Tangalakis soon after arriving at the university.
“Ted was a great friend to thousands of students, literally,” she said. “He listened to them, helped them and supported them. I know that Eastern was his life and his passion and he will be sorely missed.”
Dean Tangalakis said part of his father’s commitment to helping people throughout his life stemmed from his experiences serving in World War II. Tangalakis was honored by Gen. George Patton for his bravery in pulling wounded soldiers out of a burning medical hospital tent after it was hit by enemy fire. Later, Tangalakis was the first medic to enter the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, where he provided aid to holocaust victims.
When he retired at 93, Tangalakis was the oldest active pharmacist in Michigan and the second oldest in the country.
“He stayed young at heart because he was around young people his whole life,” Dean Tangalakis said. “He really thrived on being around college students. They helped keep him young and he stayed young at heart through all social changes going on in the '60s, '70s and '80s. He kept up-to-date and it kept him motivated and it kept him active. He just loved being around EMU.”
Visitation will be at the Nie Family Funeral Home’s Liberty Road Chapel at 3767 West Liberty Road in Ann Arbor on Sunday from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. A Greek Orthodox Trisagion service will be held on Sunday at 7 p.m. The funeral service will be held at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church at 3109 Scio Church Road in Ann Arbor on Monday at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Tangalakis’s name to St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church.