It was 2009 and our member Tim Tsotsonis wanted to work as an electrician again after a nearly 22-year absence. And he wanted to help others as a way of saying thanks for the help his family received caring for son Alexander, who has cerebral palsy.
So, at the age of 63 he returned to the job. He also took up bicycling and began entering long distance rides, including the BP MS 150, a two-day, 180-mile ride between Houston and Austin, Texas in late April.
“The purpose of life is to live it to the fullest with no regrets,” Tsotsonis said. “We have one chance to live life on this planet. We have to live with dignity and purpose, to not be selfish and help others at the same time.”
When it comes to living life to the fullest, it’s hard to top Tsotsonis, even at the age of 71.
“I think he gets up and can’t wait to get to work,” said Business Manager John Easton Jr.. “Just having that positive attitude and positive spirit has to be uplifting to people around you.”
Discovering the American Dream
Tsotsonis grew up in Corinth, Greece, about 50 miles west of Athens, and was fascinated by American culture. Some of his earliest memories are watching Westerns starring John Wayne. Later, he was enamored by movies set in Las Vegas starring Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.
“I thought ‘My goodness, I need to go to America,” he said. “That is the place for me.’ I loved the lifestyle.”
He finished high school during the day and attended electrical school at night before a compulsory stint in the Greek army, where he serviced electrical generators. Following his discharge, Tsotsonis went to the American Consulate in Athens to ask about moving to the United States, but found he didn’t meet the standards to emigrate.
Canadian officials, however, noted his electrical training; he moved to Montreal in 1970 and went through an IBEW apprenticeship program there and became a journeyman inside wireman. He met his wife Eva. He learned to speak French and English.
But moving to the U.S. never left his mind. He and Eva went on a driving vacation around the U.S. in 1978. In Houston, he saw plenty of construction going on, so he approached a foreman on a jobsite asking how to find work.
That foreman put him in touch with Whitaker Electric, an IBEW signatory contractor. Tsotsonis worked with company owner David Whitaker to gain permanent residency status in 1980. He and Eva have lived in Houston ever since.