Rodoula Loizides, the matriarch of the family behind George’s Greek Cafe, shared a very similar quality with her more sociable, out-in-the-public-eye husband: Like those who knew George called him “Papa,” the many patrons, workers and friends of the Loizides family called her “Mama Rodou.”
Rodoula, just five days after the passing of her beloved husband, has died at the age of 76. Taken in to health officials on Sunday night after complaining of chest pains, she died at 1:15 this morning.
“She had no known heart problems,” said Jessi Smith of George’s restaurant group. “She died of a broken heart.”
It was well known that George and Rodou were lovebirds: Constantly hugging, constantly touching, unafraid of public displays of affection, the two had a bond that had extended throughout their rather radical life.
Both Greek Cypriot immigrants, the pair moved to Long Beach from Zimbabwe in 1980 with three children and little more than $500. Upon arrival in Long Beach, George would take two buses to get to his job at a liquor store, while Rodou worked as a cafeteria attendant at Wilson High School.
This hard work perhaps most affected their son Jimmy, who grew up watching his parents work severely hard for very little pay—$4.25 an hour is what George made as a clerk at the liquor store, stocking, sweeping, mopping, and cleaning the space daily—and, as he told the Post three years ago, he simply didn’t want to see his father doing menial work for the rest of his life.
While the birth of George’s Greek Cafe revolved around the persona of its affable patriarch, it was Rodou’s stash of family recipes and memories of Greek cuisine that drove the restaurant’s food. And it was Rodou’s work in that kitchen that helped introduced many in Long Beach to the wonders of saganaki and kleftiko, spanakopita and pastitso for the first time.
Memorials for both George and Rodou will be combined but details have yet to be released by the family.
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