Charles Boutselis was a “gifted and inspiring storyteller,” said his niece Marina Schell of Lowell, and he had an amazing memory for fascinating stories, many of them about Greece, where his parents were born, and where he loved to visit.
He spoke Greek beautifully, his niece said, and Mr. Boutselis devoted much of his free time to Greek institutions in Lowell, where he had lived his entire life. He had served as auditor of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, his family said, and was a board member of the Hellenic cultural society.
As a young man, upon returning to Lowell after serving in the Korean War, he became involved with the Greek American Legion. When Tim Demos was appointed commander several years ago, he knew his friend’s generosity and spirit would help the organization, and he asked Mr. Boutselis to serve as treasurer.
“This is why the club is the way it is today,” Demos said. Mr. Boutselis was instrumental in coordinating the group’s Memorial Day annual events, and he also spent considerable time ensuring that the contributions of Greek-Americans who had served in the military were recognized and honored, Demos said.
Mr. Boutselis, who formerly was a management analyst at Fort Devens, died of pancreatic cancer Aug. 11 in Massachusetts General Hospital. He had turned 84 three days earlier while in the hospital, surrounded by family. He had been ill since May.
Constantine J. Boutselis Americanized his name to Charles, but friends called him Dino.
“He was low key and humble, very generous, and very involved in the church,” said his daughter Dena Stenhouse of Dover.
Demos said that “Dino would sit outside, across the street from the Whistler House and Greek church, and talk and admire the beauty of the area.”
Mr. Boutselis “was the kind of person people could depend on,” his niece said, adding that he also was a good listener, a trait that made it easy for him to keep so many friendships for such a long time.
Only 11 when his father died, Mr. Boutselis worked during his youth to help provide for his family, including during his years at Lowell High School.
“It shaped his youth and made him independent,” Schell said. “He had a very independent spirit and strong work ethic.”
Just after turning 17, Mr. Boutselis graduated early from high school, asked his mother for permission to join the Army, and served during the Korean War.
Another daughter, LeeAnn Greene of Dover, said that youthful independence shaped Mr. Boutselis and made him a far more nurturing father and grandfather.
Greene recalled sharing a dance with her father to the Cole Porter song “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” at her daughter’s wedding reception. And Stenhouse said that each year, her father called to sing “Happy Birthday” over the phone.
They said he adored his grandchildren, who looked up to him as their Papou.
Described by all who knew him as kind and loving, Mr. Boutselis could often be found watching his grandchildren play sports if he was not volunteering at the church or the Legion. He was also known as the man to go to for a good laugh.
Mr. Boutselis loved to spend time at family gatherings in Woods Hole on Cape Cod, and he also liked to travel to Greece. His parents, John Boutselis and the former Eftiheia Papleacos, had moved from Greece to Lowell, where Mr. Boutselis was one of five siblings.
Growing up, Mr. Boutselis was neighbors with Iris Stathis. They were childhood sweethearts and married in 1953.
As a youth, he also enjoyed spending time in the Acre, a Lowell neighborhood that has been home to many immigrants through the decades, including the Greeks. It was there that older Greek men taught him how to gamble, his family said, and that pastime evolved into his fondness for playing craps at the Foxwoods casino.
“Craps was the only game he played,” Greene said. “He wanted to play because it was a thinking man’s game.”
In retirement, Mr. Boutselis met with about eight friends nearly every day to drink coffee at a Chelmsford McDonald’s, often sitting in the same corner booth. “They treated us like kings there,” said Steve Ivos of Lowell, a friend for 74 years.
Ivos said Mr. Boutselis had a routine of taking his coffee with milk, slowly pouring Sweet’N Low into the cup, and ordering a refill. “He was unbelievable with his coffee,” Ivos said.
At Mr. Boutselis’s wake, a young woman Greene didn’t recognize was sobbing, and she turned out to be a cashier at the McDonald’s the men frequented. She went to the wake to tell the family she was fond of Mr. Boutselis and would miss serving him coffee.
A service has been held for Mr. Boutselis, who in addition to his two daughters and niece leaves a brother, William of Dracut, and five grandchildren.
He was buried in Dover’s Highland Cemetery next to his wife, Iris, who died in 1998. They chose a cemetery in Dover to be close to their daughters.
His friends knew of his grandchildren’s every accomplishment, from scholastics to sports. “He would talk about his children and grandchildren all the time,” Schell said. “He never missed an achievement.”
Through his stories, Greene said, Mr. Boutselis constantly tried to teach his children and grandchildren the lesson of always “doing the right thing.”
“He was a heroic guy, an exceptional grandfather,” said Stenhouse. “My sons preferred to stay home and hang out with their grandfather.”