Jan. 8, 1929-March 1, 2019
Los Altos Hills, California
John Savides passed away peacefully in his sleep on March 1, 2019 in Palo Alto at the age of 90. His spirit held strong until his final breath.
John was born in New York City on January 8, 1929. His parents Michael and Susanna Savides immigrated to the U.S. from Greece for a better life. John lived with his parents and his older brother Chris in the Bronx until 1931 when his family returned to Greece due to the Great Depression. John’s family lived comfortably just outside of Athens in Piraeus where his father owned a small candy factory. During World War II, German Nazi officers occupied the first floor of the family home. John’s family survived World War II unscathed, but then civil war broke out in Greece and the communists tried to take over which caused further challenges for the family. In 1946 John left Greece alone and joined his brother in America. Despite speaking only limited English and having little money, he completed his senior year of high school in NYC, then went on to earn a degree in electrical engineering from the City College of New York and his master’s degree in electrical engineering from Columbia University. While in college, John was an avid soccer player and he worked his way up from busboy to waiter at the famed New York Athletic Club.
John’s first engineering position was with Bell Aircraft in Buffalo, N.Y. in 1951, followed by a 1955 position with Sperry Gryoscope in NYC. In 1959 he moved to Philadelphia to become the technical director for General Electric's NIMBUS program, the first experimental weather satellite. In 1962, he joined Philco Company's Western Development Lab, later to become Ford Aerospace and then Space Systems Loral in Palo Alto. John spent much of his career designing meteorological satellites, especially those for the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite system (GOES) which supports weather forecasting, severe storm tracking, and meteorology research. The early weather report images people watched on the evening news came from the GOES satellites. He also was involved in the Indian National Satellite (INSAT) program and in 1981 was the mission director in India for the launch of INSAT-1A, as well as INSAT 1-B which was launched on the Space Shuttle STS 8. During his aerospace career he was given the honorary titles of “Mr. NIMBUS” and “Mr. GOES” for recognition as the leader of two major space programs, which according to his peers is “like winning two academy awards for best director!”
John met his wife Anita in 1957 at a Greek social in NYC. After marrying in 1959 they moved to Philadelphia and then to Los Altos in 1964. John enjoyed volunteering as an Indian Guides dad and coaching youth soccer. He and Anita played much social tennis and later became active members of Fremont Hills Country Club where they still belong. They moved right up the hill from the Club in 1972 and lived in Los Altos Hills for over 40 years. John continued playing tennis three times per week up until age 86.
When John’s children were young, he and Anita brought them to the courts to entertain themselves nearby while they played tennis. In the process, his children picked up a passion for the sport and became competitive tennis players themselves. The main emphasis in the Savides household, in addition to strong work ethic, was always on academics, and most evenings John would help one of the kids with their math or science homework.
John was very proud of his Greek American heritage. He had a wonderful voice and sang in several Greek choirs over the years, including at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in San Jose. John loved Greek dancing and food. He also enjoyed cooking, especially roasting whole lambs on Greek Easter. His annual Christmas Eve party became a ritual for over 30 years for a generation of families and connected a variety of friends around his infamous “fish house punch”.
A perfect day for John would be making scrambled eggs for breakfast, playing “family doubles” tennis at Fremont Hills CC, followed by cheering (or yelling) for the 49ers, and then dinner of fried tilapia, Greek salad and cold beer. There would always be lots of noise and likely an “Opa!” shouted during the meal. John and Anita also enjoyed feasting with friends at dinner parties, and John remained active as leader of a Loral alumni group, enjoying their meetings and weekly walks in the hills.
John is fondly remembered as a true gentleman by his colleagues, friends and family. He was kind, caring and considerate to everyone, viewed as gentle and even tempered. He was known for working hard and playing hard, and he expected the same from his children. He had an infectious zest for life, for connecting with others, and for having a good time.
John is survived by his wife of 59 years, Anita Savides, his three children: Tom Savides of Del Mar, Stacy Savides Sullivan of Los Altos, and Stephanie Savides of Menlo Park, and his five grandchildren: Jack Sullivan, Samantha Andrew, Max Sullivan, Michael Savides, and Jake Andrew, who all loved him dearly.