John Thomas Gianis, Sr., MD, a life-long resident of Summit New Jersey, passed away on March 22, 2017. John was born to Thomas and Frances Gianopoulos at General Hospital in Englewood on January 13, 1923. His parents, originally from Sparta, Greece, immigrated as teenagers to America in pursuit of a better life. Through John’s life, and the lives of his children and grandchildren, it is safe to say that they found what they were looking for.
John, whose first language was Greek, learned English at the Lincoln School in Summit. In 1941, he graduated from Summit High School, where he was a member of the school’s football, basketball and baseball teams and played both offensive and defensive end for the Elwood Cornog’s Suburban Conference championship teams.
After high school, John briefly attended Cornell University before enrolling in the United States Army. He was assigned to a field artillery unit that originated in Duluth, Minnesota and he served as a member of the 34th division of the 5th Army. While overseas, John saw action in Algiers, North Africa, as well as San Pietro, Anzio, and Cassino, Italy, where he was pinned down in a foxhole for nearly six weeks. Never one to overinflate his importance, John described his chief goal abroad as making it out alive. When the war ended, John was one of the first soldiers to return to America, having accumulated so many credits for significant battles. The day he landed in Virginia in October 1945 was one of the best days of his life.
Initially, John did not return to college after the war, but stayed in Summit to help his parents at the Sweet Shop where he worked twelve hour days making homemade ice cream and chocolates with his father. During this time, he sparked a romance with Jenny Goumas, whom he had known since he was a child and whose parents owned the Summit and Keyport Diners. John and Jenny were married on March 14, 1949. Soon after, the sale of his parents business enabled John to return to college and pursue his dream of becoming a doctor. He attended University of Alabama from which he graduated as one of the top three students in his class and as part of the National Pre-Medical Society. While in Alabama, he developed one of his other lifelong passions: love for the Alabama Crimson Tide football team. His (New Jersey) license plate, BAMA ONE, said it all. Together he and Jenny traveled to football games all over the country.
Upon graduating from Alabama, John attended the University of Geneva Medical School in Geneva, Switzerland, followed by an internship at Jersey City Medical Center and residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Margaret Hague Hospital. In 1960, he opened his practice in Summit and was a proud member of the Overlook Hospital staff for 33 years. He lovingly brought over 3000 babies into the world, each one a source of joy for him.
John took great pride in his three children: Thomas, John, and Stephen. He instilled in each of them the value of hard work and perseverance. He emphasized the importance of a strong educational foundation and proudly watched each of them graduate from the Pingry School. He made every effort to attend each of their sporting events, be they at little league, Pingry or later in college. He remained a dedicated fan at his grandchildren’s games in later years.
Through it all, John’s greatest love was for his wife Jenny, to whom he was married for 68 years. They were soul mates; they were partners; they were friends. Together, as a team, they took on life’s daily challenges. They both benefited greatly from the love and support of their parents and they passed that same support on to their children and grandchildren. They lived a great life together.
When recently asked how he would want to be remembered John simply said, “as an ordinary fella.” Born to immigrant parents who arrived with little but their name, John built a prosperous and healthy life for himself and his family. This was accomplished thanks to his educational opportunities and hard work. Whether as a serviceman, a short order cook, a student, a doctor, a husband, a father or grandfather, he was quietly committed to do the best that he could at everything he did. An ordinary fella who lived a truly extraordinary life.
John was predeceased by his parents Frances and Thomas and his younger brother George. He is survived by his wife Jenny; his children, Thomas Gianis, MD, and wife Carol, John Gianis, Jr., MD, and wife Elizabeth, Stephen Gianis, and wife Debbie; and grandchildren, Jennifer, Kimberly, Tommy, Christin, Margot, Gregory, John and Stephen. He is also survived by five great grandchildren.
A visitation will be held from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. & 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 26, 2017 at Bradley, Brough & Dangler Funeral Home, 299 Morris Avenue, Summit, NJ 07901. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, March 27, 2017 at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, 250 Gallows Hill Rd, Westfield, NJ 07090. An interment will follow at Fairview Cemetery, Westfield, NJ. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in John’s name to Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church.