Leo Harry Stavros died on Friday, Nov. 22, 2019, at the age of 94. The twinkle never left his eye, and until the end, when anyone asked how he was, he replied, “I’m a delight” and then insisted on a hug. His wit, passion for life, love of people, gratitude and humor carried him to the end.
The son of a Greek immigrant, Leo was born on Feb. 2, 1925, in Salt Lake City and raised in Idaho Falls, one of five children. He got his first job at the age of 7, selling magazines in restaurants and bars to help the family during the Great Depression. Later, he worked in his father’s shoe repair shop and midnight grocery.
Leo’s family was considered unusual because of their Greek lineage, yet Leo assimilated well, excelling in sports and academics, and as a student leader. In his senior year at Idaho Falls High School, Leo was elected student body president. Soon thereafter, Leo addressed a special school assembly to announce that he had joined the Navy and would be leaving soon to help with the war effort.
The Navy sent Leo to Idaho State University, then to Montana School of Mines, where he roomed with Bud Lilly, of later fly-fishing fame; the two remained lifelong friends. Next, Leo was ordered to report to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he received a degree in naval science and an appointment to become a Navy officer.
Leo was then assigned to an escort carrier, the USS Mindoro. He was commissioned at Pier 91 in Seattle and spent his 21st birthday sailing through the Panama Canal. Before he left active duty and returned to Madison to obtain a degree in civil engineering, Leo also studied at the United States War College.
Although he was offered engineering positions in Wisconsin, Leo’s father asked that he return to Idaho to help in the family grocery and assist with getting his siblings through college, and Leo couldn’t refuse. He worked with his family, building up their grocery business, then established an insurance business. He moved to Seattle and became a State Farm district manager. But he longed for Idaho and having first skied in Sun Valley in the early 1950s, he chose the Wood River Valley as his home. On Jan. 1, 1965, Leo took ownership of what had been the Golden Rule Store, located on Main Street in Hailey. He renamed it the Triple S Market. Hailey had about 1,100 people and he memorized the names in the phone book so he could greet his grocery customers properly.
Leo was a great marketer and the store flourished. Some locals still remember the annual “The Boss Is Gone” sale; before Leo left on vacation, he bought five 100-pound bags of peanuts and ads encouraged shoppers to fill their pockets with peanuts and throw the shells on the floor—although the store had to be swept so the carts could roll through, the shelves weren’t cleaned until Leo returned. In 1973, Leo bought the General Store in Elkhorn Village, running both businesses for some years, then just the Elkhorn location until his retirement in 1988.
Leo was a 50-year Rotarian, served on the Blaine County Hospital board and was president of both the Hailey Chamber of Commerce and the Days of the Old West celebration. He chaired a fundraising effort for the Senior Connection and was grateful to be a two-time cancer survivor.
In the summer of 1991, Leo met his wife, Marcia, on a hike to Pioneer Cabin, discovering that she had also graduated from the University of Wisconsin. Leo often said “that’s when the rodeo started.” Walking side by side, they shared nearly 30 years together, enjoying an extraordinary love, an infectious joie de vivre and a deep and abiding gratitude. Although they traveled often, their favorite times were with family and friends, whether at their annual Greek Party or gathered ’round the dining room table with seemingly bottomless bottles of red wine.
Leo always said that life owed him nothing and that he hoped he could die in his beloved Idaho. He got his wish, dying in the Hailey home he lived in for nearly 50 years, surrounded by family, friends, laughter, love and a deep and abiding peace.
Leo is survived by his wife, Marcia Mode-Stavros, as well as four children from his prior marriages to Jeane Abbott and Marilyn Partington: Terry (Dominic) Varacalle, of Las Vegas; Bill (Linda) Stavros, of Hailey; Kimberley (Craig) Jacobson, of Idaho Falls; Coral Stavros, of Newnan, Ga.; as well as seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, with the ninth, a baby to be named Leo, scheduled to arrive in February.
Visitation will be held at Light on the Mountains Spiritual Center (12446 Highway 75, south of Ketchum) on Friday, Dec. 6, from 5-7 p.m. The funeral service will be held at the Hailey Community Campus Theater (1050 Fox Acres Road, Hailey) on Saturday, Dec. 7, at 11 a.m., followed by burial in the Hailey Cemetery.
The family wishes to thank Dr. Richard Paris, whom Leo credited with playing a pivotal role in his longevity over their 30-year physician/patient relationship. Leo shared a special bond with Deb Smith, caregiver extraordinaire, as well as the team from Hospice and Palliative Care of the Wood River Valley. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any memorials be given to Hospice (P.O. Box 4320, Ketchum, ID 83340) so others may benefit from their wise and tender care.
Family and friends are invited to share stories, memories, photos, and light a candle at www.woodriverchapel.com.