On the seventh of September, family, friends, and our community lost an amazing man. Iossif Marios Petros Gressis (Joe) passed away unexpectedly at the age of 45.
Joe was a kind, caring, smiling, happy, generous, hard-working man. He loved his family so much. He is Greek and the family is closer than most families I know. He leaves behind a grieving wife, two young children, an adult daughter, two grandchildren, a mother and father, a brother and sister, a niece and nephew, and so many friends. To be a friend of Joe’s was like being family.
I know this because he was my friend.
I have been trying to write this all day and it’s now late at night and I am having a difficult time putting into words what a special person Joe was.
I want to start with sharing his obituary:
“Joe was born in Athens, Greece and immigrated to the United States when he was 12. He went to school until 9th grade and then entered the restaurant business, starting as a dishwasher and learning the details of the industry. He then ventured into his first ice cream truck, which lead to food trucks. In 2001, Joe and his family opened their first restaurant, Ouzos, in LaPlata. In 2010, Joe opened a Brick Oven pizza store, OBO Pizza in Waldorf. In 2012, he opened another pizza location in Indian Head. In 2013, he reinvented and moved his family restaurant, renaming it Galazio. In 2019, he opened Lucianna’s Steakhouse in Waldorf. During the winter season he was known as “Snowkiller”, keeping Charles County roads plowed and safe for the community. During Covid and in-house quarantine he acquired his General Contractor license and in 2021 opened Orbitz Construction, his latest venture.
In November 2015, along with his mother Asimina, he hosted his first all free Thanksgiving dinner at Galazio Restaurant for anyone who needed either a meal or just someone’s company. He enjoyed sitting at the tables and sharing his stories with strangers, while at the same time hearing theirs. Only a small handful of families came on that first year, however, the event sent shockwaves of gratitude throughout the community and started a new yearly tradition,
He loved music, hunting, traveling, eating, a good conversation, playing chess, and poker. Joe was a great imitator, a storyteller, and he could make anyone laugh. He naturally knew how to lift the environment and was a great entertainer. He was a self-driven entrepreneur, a problem solver, an innovator, and a helping hand to anyone.
Joe was a faithful husband, a loving and caring father, a supportive son, a reliable sibling, a compassionate leader, and he leaves all of those who were close heartbroken.”
I met Joe when he was at Ouzos. It was one of my favorite restaurants. When he moved and opened Galazio, it became my go-to place. In 2015, my 15-year old daughter and I helped with the first free Thanksgiving dinner. It was wonderful to be a part of such a special day. We fed people who were alone for the holiday, some who lived in their cars, and some who just wanted to be part of a community. We continued to help with the Thanksgiving dinner for several years. Joe told me he would never turn away someone who needed a meal. There were several times when people would come to Galazio and I would call Joe and tell him I recognized them from Thanksgiving, and he told me to make sure they got a meal. That was Joe.
At that first Thanksgiving dinner, Joe was impressed with my daughter and offered her a job. She worked for Joe, first as a hostess and then as a server, until she went away to college in 2019. It was during this time I became friends with Joe and his family. His parents are great friends and wonderful people (it’s obvious where Joe got it from). Often, I sat at the bar, having dinner, and waiting to give my daughter a ride home after her shift. Joe was there often. He loved what he did and loved people. He would regale us with stories. He once told me all about how the ancient Greeks fought their wars. And to make sure I was paying attention; he would quiz me.
He loved making people feel special. He would text me and ask me to tell my daughter she was his favorite employee. I know he said that to everyone. He was a great boss. He had employees who worked for him since the Ouzo’s days. He knew how to motivate his employees…who were also his friends.
His friends became family. I remember attending his son’s christening, going to the casino several times (he tried to teach me craps, which I still don’t understand), sharing Easter celebration at his home with his family and friends, and visiting other restaurants. He would tell me to keep an eye on Galazio for him; he told that to all these friends!
Several years ago, I was a commercial real estate agent and was able to get him the building where Lucianna’s Steakhouse is in Waldorf. He worked so hard to turn that building into the great restaurant it is today. I was amazed at all the work he did himself, from cutting the granite to building the wine room to building walls.
I called him a restaurant genius. He always had a deal or restaurant on his mind. He would send me texts saying he had a great idea and to call him as soon as I could. He knew how to make his restaurants provide what people wanted. During Covid, he was able to keep his restaurants open and his employees working.
He was a mentor to many, from restaurant owners to young adults to friends who needed help. He always had a smile and an idea! Joe touched the heart of countless people. He had lots of friends and they all have wonderful stories to tell. He touched so many lives and his passing has left behind broken hearts.
He gave to our community. He fed anyone who needed a meal, he hosted the free Thanksgiving dinner, he even acquired a truck full of gallons of milk and he passed them out to people along the side of the road. He supported local charities including LifeStyles and The Arnold House. Joe found joy in helping others.
If you see vehicles with stickers on the back that say, “I know Joe” or “Do it for Joe”, think of him and do something special for someone. Joe would be proud!
Joe’s family plans to continue his legacy by keeping the restaurants running, as Joe would want them to do. This Thanksgiving, his family, and friends will make sure the tradition continues.