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Longtime region businessman George Korellis dies

George Korellis

George Korellis worked a variety of jobs as a young man, before settling into one that would lead to his founding of one of the area's largest roofing companies, and make him one of its best-known businessmen.

Korellis, the son of Greek immigrants, a lifelong resident of Hammond and the founder of Korellis Roofing Inc., died Saturday at the age of 86.

"He had two families — one related by blood, one by work," his son, Pete Korellis, said. "He loved them all."

George Korellis was born in 1928. His parents had arrived in the United States from Greece several years earlier, and were married shortly after arrival upon arrangement by their families.

Korellis served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, and "had numerous jobs," Pete Korellis said, before trying roofing.

He enjoyed the outdoor, physical labor. And his boss, Norbert Gartner, "took my dad under his wing."

In 1960, Korellis founded his own company, working out of his Hammond home.

Well into the 1970s, "we had to answer the phone at home, 'Korellis Roofing,'" his son said.

Eventually, the company moved to its own headquarters, and grew to become a prominent commercial roofing company, always located in Hammond.

George Korellis would never miss an event involving his son or his daughter, Karen, but rarely took a vacation, his son said.

"He loved his work," Pete Korellis said. "That's what he wanted to do; that's what he loved."

George Korellis always remembered his humble roots, and would think of his own father when the business saw success.

Whenever the company was able to make a significant investment, or won a big contract, Pete Korellis said, "he would kind of shake his head and say, 'I wish Papa could see this. He wouldn't believe it.'"

George Korellis held the local Christmas Cheer Fund close to his heart, his son said. His family had received help from the fund when George was a child. 

He was one of the founders of the Northwestern Indiana Roofing Contractors Association, and started its scholarship fund. He was named Businessman of the Year by the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce in 2014. Korellis was also dedicated to St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Hammond.

In his last years, after his son had taken over the business, George Korellis continued to work.

"He'd come in every day," Pete Korellis said. "He knew everyone."

Korellis Roofing vice president Jeff Tharp has worked for the company nearly 30 years.

"He was a great guy to work for," Tharp said. "He had high expectations of everyone who worked for him, but was always fair. Everyone's going to miss George tremendously."

In addition to his children, George Korellis is survived by his wife of 62 years, Harriet; four sisters; a brother, and two grandchildren. Funeral services are 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, 7021 Hohman Ave., Hammond.


Senior Copy Editor

Jeanette is a journalist with The Times Media Co. who has worked as both a reporter and editor. She has a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield.