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Much-loved Father Nicolaos Zervas named city’s latest Freeman

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A selfless volunteer boasting more than five decades of community service is the recipient of the City of Newcastle’s (CN) highest honour.

Father Nicolaos Zervas OAM became CN’s 17th Freeman, joining an impressive list that includes the likes of former Lord Mayor Joy Cummings, Surfest co-founder Warren Smith and writer, philanthropist and passionate historian Vera Deacon.

The 90-year-old collected the award during the Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church’s annual celebration for Greek Independence Day on Sunday 24 March.

Father Nicolaos said he was proud to receive the accolade.

“I was living in Sydney when I was given the option to relocate to Newcastle,” he explained.

“As soon as we arrived, I felt very at home, and I knew it was the place I wanted to work and raise my family in.

“It is emotional to be recognised by the City of Newcastle in this way (Freeman).

“The support of my wife Nina, my four children and 10 grandchildren has enabled me to keep giving back to the community of St Demetrios and the people of Newcastle and now, even in retirement, it has been my absolute privilege to do so.”

Born in Greece in 1934, Father Nicolaos came to Australia in 1955.

He initially opened a restaurant in Victoria, then one in Sydney, but his real dream was to become a priest.

After marrying his beloved wife Christina (Nina) in 1965, he was given an opportunity to move north where he was ordained by the Newcastle Greek community in 1973.

Twenty years later, he was awarded the Order of Australia medal (OAM) for his spirit of giving, volunteering with Meals on Wheels at Hamilton, the Northern Settlement Services, the Ethnic Communities Council and Lifeline.

Father Nicolaos is a founding member of Greek Day Care and a life member of Hippocrates Aged Care, Fronditha Aged Care Nursing Home and Newcastle Olympic Football Club.

Despite retiring from his role with the Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in July 2021, he still regularly visits people in nursing homes and hospitals.

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said Father Nicolaos’ kid-hearted acts had benefitted multiple generations, from teaching scripture to children, through to volunteering with senior citizens.

“His list of achievements spans decades, with a remarkable breadth of service to the community,” she stated.

“He has contributed to initiatives that not only advanced his local Greek community, but also across sectors of health and wellbeing, peace and justice, sport and aged care… for all Novocastrians.”

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