Gus Pallios of Ceres, who co-founded the Richland Markets chain and was a leader in civic and religious life, died Monday at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto. He was 87.
Mr. Pallios stayed involved at the company's Ceres headquarters until his death, said his son, Nick Pallios.
"He loved the work," his son said. "He loved the customers. He loved the employees."
Mr. Pallios and his brother John opened their first store, all of 960 square feet, on Richland Avenue in Ceres in 1951. They soon were joined by another brother, George.
"There we were in business in a spot where jackrabbits outnumbered people and in a building so small it didn't even measure up to a 'mom-and-pop' store," Gus Pallios said in a 1980 interview with The Bee. "Some days I wondered how we'd gotten ourselves into such a mess, if we'd ever get out of it and whether we'd ever get the debt paid off."
The first day, the brothers collected $75 in the cigar box that served as a cash register, according to a family history.
They persevered, enlarging the store several times and opening another one in Ceres in 1960. They expanded to Turlock in 1965, Modesto in 1985, and Oakdale in 2001. They closed the original Ceres location in 1967.
The chain stood at seven stores when, in 2005, some of them were sold or spun off.
Today, the three stores under the Richland name are on Whitmore Avenue in Ceres and on Carpenter Road and Yosemite Boulevard in Modesto.
Mr. Pallios was born July 13, 1920, in Helper, Utah, a coal mining town where his Greek immigrant father had settled in 1907. The family moved to Ceres during the Depression.
Mr. Pallios graduated from Modesto High School and went to work in the wholesale produce industry in San Francisco. He enlisted in the Army Air Forces during World War II, serving in Eng-land and reaching the rank of staff sergeant.
Mr. Pallios worked in canneries and construction after the war. He then joined the Lucky chain, where he learned the grocery business before launching his own store.
He and his wife, Despina Regas Pallios, were married in 1948. They raised two sons, Steve and Nick Pallios of Modesto, and a daughter, Toni Sampinos of Price, Utah.
"My dad was a very good man, and he loved family," Nick Pallios said. "He just loved family events and having us get together."
Mr. Pallios was a member of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, where he was a longtime parish council member and helped found the annual Greek Food Festival.
"He was definitely a pillar of our community," said the Rev. Jon Magoulias, the church's pastor for the past 21 years. "He was a man of great faith and integrity in everything he did."
Mr. Pallios was the charter president of the Ceres Rotary Club and president of the Northern California and Stanislaus County grocers associations. He was a member of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Memorial Hospital Ceres board.
He served as president of the Pancretan Association of Amer-ica and was a member of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association and Lefka Oree. He was named Archon of St. Andrew by Archbishop Iakovos of the Greek Orthodox Church of America.
Besides his wife and children, Mr. Pallios is survived by one brother, George Pallios, and seven grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his other brother, John Pallios, and his sisters, Penny Simvoulakis and Georgia Grillos.
A trisagion will be at 7 p.m. Thursday at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, 313 Tokay Ave., Modesto. A funeral will be at 10 a.m. Friday at the church. Burial will follow at Lakewood Memorial Park, Hughson. Salas Brothers Funeral Chapel, Modesto, is in charge of arrangements.
Remembrances may be made to Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, P.O. Box 707, Modesto 95353; or the Ceres Rotary Club Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 1573, Ceres 95307.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2385.