The death of Constantine Kapothanasis two weeks ago was a blow to Portland’s Greek community and to the chain of auto service shops he founded decades earlier.

Tasso Kapothanasis

It also was the beginning of a week of unimaginable loss for his family.

Kapothanasis was 89 when he died on Dec. 31 after a brief illness. Four days later, Effie, his wife of 61 years died unexpectedly of what doctors call broken heart syndrome. And three days after that, their son Tasso Kapothanasis died of complications from injuries he sustained in a fall.

“It’s unreal,” his brother Paul Kapothanasis of Westbrook said in a phone interview Friday. “As you can imagine, I’m exhausted. We’ve had quite a bit of loss in a short period of time.”

Constantine “Charlie” Kapothanasis and Effie married in 1957, one week after meeting at the former Olympia Restaurant on Congress Street in Portland.

In their early years, the couple lived on Washington Avenue in Portland, where they raised three sons, Christo, Paul and Tasso. Paul Kapothanasis compared their early years to the iconic television show “Leave It to Beaver.”

Charlie Kapothanasis was a hard-working mechanic and business-owner who founded K Bros VW Repairs on Ashmont Street in Portland. In 1984, Kapothanasis and his sons founded Prompto, the 10-minute oil change business that has locations across Maine and New Hampshire.

Effie Kapothanasis was a devoted wife and mother, who supported his career and raised their children.

Paul Kapothanasis said his parents had a storybook romance. He shared stories about their devotion to each other, and love for family and their community. He believes his mother died of a broken heart. She was 90.

“I don’t think she wanted to go on without my father,” Paul Kapothanasis said. “She was madly in love with him and he was madly in love with her.”

Researchers for years have studied what is known as broken heart syndrome. According to the American Heart Society, “Women are more likely than men to experience the sudden, intense chest pain – the reaction to a surge of stress hormones – that can be caused by an emotionally stressful event,” such as the death of a loved one. Family members believe this was the case for Effie.

A double funeral was held Jan. 5 at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Portland.

“It’s so appropriate they were buried together,” their son said. “If you’d ask them, they would have wanted to go out like that.”

SON UNAWARE OF PARENTS’ DEATHS

It was just two days after the double funeral that their son Tasso died unexpectedly. He was 55.

Paul Kapothanasis said his brother fell near the end of December and broke six ribs and had been hospitalized for about 11 days. While in the hospital, he developed pneumonia and blood clots in his lungs and heart. The Kapothanasis family did not tell Tasso that his parents had died.

“He had such a close relationship with my parents. This would have hurt him pretty badly,” his brother said, recalling the hours he sat with Tasso before he died. “This was the most difficult thing I’ve ever faced. I haven’t had a chance to even think about it. You go through moments, and you’re like, ‘Wow, he’s not here or they’re not here.’ It’s pretty painful. There’s a big void. I’m constantly trying to talk myself into the fact that everything is good. I haven’t had a chance for it to hit. I’m bracing myself.”

One week after the funeral for Charlie and Effie Kapothanasis, family and friends returned to the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church to mourn and honor their son.

Tasso Kapothanasis was vice president of Prompto oil change shops and K Bros, the distribution arm of Prompto. He was in charge of purchasing and distribution, and managed the company’s daily operations.

Since 1984, Prompto has grown to 24 locations with another scheduled to open this winter in Scarborough.

Paul Kapothanasis said his brother, much like their father, was a dedicated leader who built relationships with customers and employees.

“He was the heart and soul of the business,” his brother said. “He was Mr. Steady Eddie at work. He wanted to be the first guy in the building for the last 35 years. He was that kind of guy. He was a solid example here.”

He was husband to Valentina Kapothanasis for 23 years and a devoted father of two children, Anastasia, 18, and Evangelo, 15. They lived in Westbrook under the same roof as Charlie and Effie Kapothanasis.

Tasso’s wife reminisced about the day they met at DiMillo’s in Portland.

“We fell in love at first sight and we’ve never looked back,” she said.

They were married by a Justice of the Peace in November of 1995, followed by a traditional Greek wedding in May 1996.

‘WE’VE HAD AN UNBELIEVABLE LIFE’

She remembered her husband as a dedicated family man with a pure heart and a gift for nurturing friendships.

“Tasso was the heart of our big family,” his wife said, reflecting on his witty jokes and upbeat personality. “There was no one else like Tasso.”

Like his parents, Tasso Kapothanasis was a fixture in Portland’s Greek community. His wife said he was a hands-on father, who attended his kids’ school and athletic events.

“He was extremely close to his kids,” his wife said. “He was such a gentle loving soul. It was too soon for him to go from this earth.”

Prompto will continue to operate its oil change shops with Paul Kapothanasis as treasurer and Christo Kapothanasis as vice president of the company. Paul Kapothanasis said they will operate the business following the legacy his father and brother created, which focuses on family first. Today, the company has more than 200 employees, many of whom have long tenures with Prompto.

“As sad as this is . . . my family . . . we’ve had an unbelievable life. It’s been an incredible life,” Paul Kapothanasis said. “I have no complaints about the journey we had.”

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

[email protected]ald.com

Twitter: MelanieCreamer

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