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Chris Jelepis, teacher and school administrator, dies at 89

“He was a very warm person, and people gravitated to him,” said his wife. That went for his students of all ages.

Chris T. Jelepis
Chris T. JelepisRead moreCourtesy of the Jelepis family

Chris T. Jelepis, 89, an educator and school administrator, died Tuesday, June 22, of congestive heart failure and pulmonary fibrosis at Brandywine Hospital in Brandywine Township.

Mr. Jelepis, a resident of West Chester and Exton in more recent years, was a man who enjoyed people, and they enjoyed him, whether he was playing music, sharing children’s stories he wrote, or just chatting. In Mr. Jelepis’ years as a teacher, his pupils ranged from middle school to college to senior citizens.

“He was a very warm person, and people gravitated to him,” said Jan Jelepis, his wife of 61 years. “He had a nice, easy way of talking. He always wanted to know about the other people. His grandkids adored him. I adored him, too.”

Born in Cleveland to Thomas and Maria Mavrikis Jelepis, he was the youngest of four boys. He also had a sister whom his parents adopted from a relative in Greece.

Mr. Jelepis served four years in the Navy as a radar operator. He later received a bachelor’s in music education and a master’s degree in guidance and administration from Case Western Reserve University before earning a doctorate in education administration from the University of Akron.

While at Case Western, he met his future wife, Jan Lott. Although he was two years older, she was already a classroom teacher, and he was assigned to her as a student teacher.

Back then, even their sixth-grade pupils guessed the student teacher was sweet on their teacher, Jan Jelepis said.

“He always used to say, ‘I had to marry her to get an A,’” she said.

Mr. Jelepis taught initially and later served as a superintendent of school districts in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, including in Chichester and Haddonfield. He became a professor teaching business at Drexel University. When he retired in 1983, he continued teaching history part time to senior citizens at Immaculata College.

Mr. Jelepis was a music lover who played piano, cello, and accordion. He helped pay his way through college by playing the accordion in polka bands in Cleveland nightclubs, his wife said.

He was an avid reader, and he also made up stories he turned into children’s books. Some stories were fanciful, with dragons or a little boy who played the cello with a magic bow. Others were more realistic with a moral. He sent the books to the couple’s son Christopher Jelepis in France for their grandchildren to enjoy.

The couple also loved to travel. France was a favorite, his wife said. But Mr. Jelepis also enjoyed the sun and beaches of Mexico.

Mr. Jelepis was a member of the St. George Greek Orthodox Church of Media and former choir director of St. Luke’s Greek Orthodox Church of Broomall.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Jelepis is survived by his children, Michael C. Jelepis, Christopher Jelepis, and Jennifer M. Soutos; four grandchildren; and his sister. Three brothers and a granddaughter died earlier.

A funeral was held Monday, June 28.

Contributions in Mr. Jelepis’ memory may be made to St. George Greek Orthodox Church, 30 E. Forge Rd., Media, Pa., 19107 or to the Williams-Syndrome Association, 560 Kirts Blvd., Suite 118, Troy, Mich. 48084.