Fun with famous friends - The late S. Steven "Spike" Karalekas caroling with the late U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and former President Bill Clinton. (Photo courtesy Jeannie Whelan)

Swampscott’s Karalekas walked the halls of power

LYNN -- Mourners with well-known names and impressive titles will converge on South Common Street Saturday for the funeral of former Swampscott resident, Navy veteran, and presidential aide S. Steven "Spike" Karalekas.

The 77-year-old Karalekas, who divided his time between Boston, Washington D.C., and Phoenix, died on Nov. 28, according to his obituary. His funeral is from St. George Greek Orthodox Church at 11 a.m., with visitation from 9 to 11 a.m. 

"Victoria Reggie Kennedy is likely to be among those attending," said Thomas L. Demakes, owner of Old Neighborhood Foods, and first cousin of Karalekas' widow, Tina, referring to the late U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's widow. 

Two years old in 1944 when his father, Steven, died in a naval yard accident, Karalekas and his three older siblings were raised by their mother, Sotiria. 

The family lived on Sheridan Road in Swampscott and the youngest Karalekas put smiles on friends' faces and impressed people who could make a difference in his life with his good nature and humor. 

A multi-talented musician, he lit up a room when he showed up.

"When Spike was around, he took over. He was a Swampscott kid through and through," Demakes said. 

He graduated in 1965 with honors from the U.S. Naval Academy, earned a law degree from the University of Indiana, and a master's degree in public administration from Harvard University. 

He was appointed White House staff assistant in the Nixon administration at the age of 29. His political affiliation as a Republican didn't hamper Karalekas' ability to meet and make friends with people on both sides of the political divide.

He counted astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin as a friend and Demakes said Karalekas lived across the street in Washington from Kennedy. A visit with Karalekas was a must whenever the senator visited the North Shore. 

"He was a fascinating guy. He was down-to-earth but he hobnobbed with very powerful people," said Lynn attorney Thomas C. Demakis.

Karalekas left the White House in 1973 to become chief of staff to former U.S. Rep. Paul W. Cronin. He went on to play a lead role in the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation and practiced law in Washington for more than 40 years, representing the Washington interests of major firms and assisting state governments in military base closure transitions. 

Alexander J. "Sandy" Tennant, managing partner of New England Strategic Development Corporation, said Karalekas' ability to mix humility and humor combined with his military service reputation and intelligence, meant he "knew everybody and was liked by everybody."

"He didn't take himself as the end of the world and he kept his word," Tennant said. 

Demakes said his friend packed "150 years" of living into the 77 he enjoyed.

Burial will be in Swampscott Cemetery.

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