Manchester NH’s First Greek-American to die in WW1: Pvt. Christos N. Kalivas

Today  a lovely spot, first called Park Common, and bordered by Cedar, Lake Ave, Pine and

Christos N. Kalivas likeness from his memorial statue.

Christos N. Kalivas likeness from his memorial statue.

Chestnut Streets, is known as Kalivas Park. It was first dedicated in 1940 in memory of Christos N. Kalivas, who was killed during World War 1, and later rededicated in 2002 to recognize all Greek-Americans who died while in the armed forces.

According to his World War 1 registration papers, Christos Nicolan Kalivas, was born 24 Sep 1888 Dolo, Greece.He had started out attending theological school in Athens, but his father suddenly died, leaving him with the support of his family. Thinking America would provide him with better opportunities for work, he arrived in Manchester, New Hampshire in 1908.

When he filled out his registration papers in June 1917, he was living at 8 Mitchell Ave in Manchester NH, noting he “has 1st naturalization papers.” He goes on to add that his occupation was a “heel sorter” at W. H. McElwain in Manchester NH. He is described as being medium height, black eyes, dark hair, medium build. The papers also note that he is married, and is the financial support of wife, mother, and brothers.  [Note in the 1914 Manchester City Directory, Christos Kalivas is living at 207 Cedar Street; when he died the newspapers reported his address as 196 Cedar Street, Manchester NH].

Christos was inducted on May 24, 1918 as a member of Company C., 16th Infantry, First Division, American Expeditionary Forces.   On 4 October 1918, near Fleville, France, the 16th was the only Allied unit to take its objective during the opening drive of the Meuse-Argonne Campaign. 4 October is still celebrated as the 16th Infantry organizational day. Christos N. Kalavas died in action on the battlefields of France  on 8 Oct 1918, after serving overseas for over six months. He is buried with his comrade-at-arms, at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery at Romagne, France, in Plot A Row 18 Grave 26. A month and a few days after his death, November 11, 1918, an Armistice was declared.

Dedication of the new flag pole, Kalivas Park, May 26, 1940. MHA Photoprint Collection, New Hampshire Historical Association.

Dedication of the new flag pole, Kalivas Park, May 26, 1940. MHA Photoprint Collection, New Hampshire Historical Association.

In December of 1939, under the leadership of Chris J. Agrafiotis, (then) National Vice President of the Society of the First Division, A.E.F., and the Honorable Foster Stearns, Congressman of the Second New Hampshire District and President of the Granite State Society of the First Division, A.E.F., a movement began to change the name of the current Park Common, to Christos N. Kalivas Park.  The Manchester’s Mayor and Board of Aldermen were presented with a petition which was approved in 1939, and  on May 26, 1940 the park was first dedicated as Christos N. Kalivas Park.  An organization called the Christos N. Kalivas World War Association was then created composed of Americans of “Hellenic descent” who fought in World War I, and who would work to build a memorial to be erected at the newly renamed park.

The original monument was to be “approximately 30 feet high with a triangular base designed as a pedestal upon which three figures, representing the army, navy and the marines, will be cast in bronze and placed against a large doric column. A Greek fret and historical symbols, Helenic in character, decorate the pedestal…the artist was recommended by Omer T. Lassone, the State Art Supervisor. He is Adio di Bicarri of Manchester and Boston.”  In August of 1941 there began a drive for funds and by April of 1942 about $5,000 had been raised. The project was delayed due to World War 2.

It was not until 29 May 1959 that the Kalivas monument, first envisioned in 1939, was finally dedicated.  Inscribed on the original memorial is a bronze plaque with Pvt. Kalivasl likeness and these words: “In abiding memory of Christos Kalivas who was the first Greek-American to sacrifice his life for our country in World War I.” At the base of the memorial is this inscription, “This memorial made possible through the untiring efforts of Chris J. Agrafiotis, general chairman.” [Note: Christos Kalivas was not the first Greek-American to sacrifice his life during World War I, as George Dillboy pre-deceased him on July 1918.  Christos was, however, the first from Manchester, New Hampshire].  According to a Union Leader newspaper article of 2002 by John Clayton: “The dedication of Kalivas Park drew 4,000 people. The WPA Band was there. So was an honor guard from the American Legion. Congressman A.B. Jenks was there, as was U.S. Rep. Foster Stearns, who also served with the 1st Infantry in France. The Greek Consul, Alexis Liatis, was there, as was Mayor Damase Caron and a 10-year-old bugler named Spike Plentzas  and young lady named Vasilike Doumousiaris” [Editor’s note: Vasilike was Christos’ niece and is known today as Vasilike Papajohn; Spike Plentzas was the history researcher for the 2002 rededication].

Additional recognition was given to Chris N. Kalivas when a high rise apartment building for the elderly, located at 175 Chestnut Street, was dedicated in his honor on 19 September 1973.

On March 20, 2002 the following became part of the United State Senate’s Congressional Record: “TRIBUTE TO CHRISTOS NICKOLAS KALIVAS.– Mr. SMITH of New Hampshire. Mr. President, I rise today to pay tribute to Christos Nickolas Kalivas, the first Greek American from Manchester, NH to be killed in action during World War I. He is being honored at the re-dedication ceremony of Kalivas Park in Manchester on March 23, 2002. The city has completed extensive renovations and upgrading of the park in anticipation of the event.
Christos was born on September 24, 1885 in the village of Vithos in Kozanis, Macedonia, Greece. In 1908, he left his wife, Vasilike, and daughter Gilkeria, to immigrate to the United States in search of a better life. He hoped to eventually raise enough money to bring his family to the U.S. as well. Unfortunately, the difficult economic conditions of World War 1 made this goal impossible and he was forced to live with relatives in Manchester and work as a laborer for ten years.
In May of 1918 he entered the United States Army. Just two months later on July 6, he went overseas as a member of Company C, 16th infantry, 1st division. He was killed in action during the October 1918 Meuse-Argonne offensive in France, one month before the war ended. Tragically, he had never reunited with his family.
Christos represented the citizens of New Hampshire and the United States with courage and bravery. I commend the contribution he made in our Nation in a time of despair. It is truly an honor and a privilege to represent him in the U.S. Senate.
Kalivas Park rededication, March 23, 2002 – [Editor’s Note: my own research differs from this account in a few points, which can be clearly seen through my primary evidence links above].

At the rededication of Kalivas Park, an additional placque was placed that reads: “The City of Manchester is proud to honor all Greek-Americans who answered the call of this country and served in the Armed Forces. Many of these never returned and paid the supreme sacrifice. This park is named for Christos N. Kalivas, the first Greek-American from Manchester to be killed in action during World War I. Rededication – Marh 21, 2002. Kalivas Park Rededication Committee.

[Editor’s Note: This article is one of several I have written at the request of Don Pinard, Department of Public Works, Chief of Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Division, City of Manchester, New Hampshire.  It is a volunteer project (on my part) to better record and share the stories of the men memorialized by the city’s “Military Squares.”  All the information specifically within the body of this project is shared copyright free with the City of Manchester and its representatives, with the exception of photographs provided by family or friends who still retain whatever rights conveyed to them by law.]

 *****ADDITIONAL READING****

Greek Americans in the U S Military

 

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2 Responses to Manchester NH’s First Greek-American to die in WW1: Pvt. Christos N. Kalivas

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