Written by Justine Frangouli-Argyris
The Montreal Greek community recently lost a patriot, a proud Greek, a patron who supported and strengthened the community and its members.
Stratton Stevens, one of the most prominent personalities of Hellenism in Canada, lost his battle with life last week. He was often voted Montreal's most eligible bachelor and was well known for the glamorous receptions at his impressive residence on Montreal’s Golden Mile. He was a true cosmopolitan who did not limit himself to the Greek environment of Montreal but became a man of the world through his relationships with the most important people on the planet.
His most famous friendship was with legendary Canadian Prime Minister Pierre-Elliott Trudeau with whom he enjoyed dinners, conversations and trips to the Greek islands, in the immediate vicinity of which current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was often to be found.
Due to his closeness with the Trudeau family, Stratton Stevens was able to help politicians of Greek origin stand out in the Liberal Party while also supporting them economically at the same time.
Stratton Stevens, or Stratos Skafidas, was born in Montreal, Canada on April 15, 1932 to Greek parents. His father, Dionysios Tipaldos-Skafidas, hailed from the island of Cefalonia while his mother, Eugenia Poulides, was from Constantinople and Prussia. Her father, Efstratios Poulides, arrived in Canada in 1866.
Stratos' father, who was born in Typaldata, a village just outside Lixouri, emigrated to Canada in 1902 (the day his mother was born), first arriving at New York's Ellis Island and then, by train, to Dalhousie Station at Place Viger in Montreal. He was a little boy, only 11 years old, and Stratos loved to relate the story that his Dad claimed to be 17 in order to land a job in the construction company that built the Québec City bridge, only to be turned down because he looked so young.
His father would return to Montreal and begin working in fruit distribution, initially earning $100 a year and eventually opening his own store in 1912. He would go on to support George Tzanetakos, the originator of United Amusements, a company that held the distribution rights to many films. However, his wealth would came in large part from the stock market.
Stratos' parents married in 1923 and bore five children: Harry, who would become the first surgeon of Greek descent in Canada and take on the position of director at the Reddy Memorial, one of the country's oldest hospitals, two beautiful girls, Andrianna and Helen, as well as Stratton and his twin brother, George, a chartered accountant.
Stratton Stevens began working hard early on, opening his first restaurant at a very tender age. Anxious and smart, Stratton would quickly expand his business interests to include two hotels, other restaurants and even some kiosks at Montreal’s memorable World's Fair, Expo 67. He became a shipowner and made several acquisitions in real estate, making him one of the richest Hellenes in Canada.
The genius of the man lied in the fact that he did not simply amass material wealth but, given his charismatic persona, was able to create lifetime friendships with many prominent individuals and families---from the Guccis to the Trudeaus.
His friendship with late Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau was a very close one and they were often seen eating together in Greek restaurants and holidaying in Greece. He maintained close ties with the whole Trudeau family including current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Canadian Supreme Court Justice, Antonio Lamer, was also a close friend and regular attendee at Stratton’s receptions where he would join the elite of the political and business world of Montreal.
Stratton Stevens was awarded the Order of Canada, the highest award given to a Canadian Citizen.
Stratton will be remembered as a distinguished Canadian and a true Hellene!