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Beloved Mad Greek Deli owner dies unexpectedly at age 49


SUBMITTED PHOTO - Pantelis 'Pondo' Kosmas, owner of the Mad Greek Deli in the Rock Creek area of Washington County, was a dedicated Portland Timbers fan. He died over the weekend of a brain hemorrhage at age 49.The week before his death, Pantelis "Pondo" Kosmas said his goodbyes.

Whether it was a premonition or just macabre humor, only Pondo will ever know.

But text messages, phone calls and personal visits from a man who is widely described as larger than life preceded a sudden and unexpected fatal brain hemorrhage Sunday.

"Next week, I'll be playing golf with your dad in heaven," Pondo reportedly told Mad Greek Deli employee Nicole Hoff mere days ago.

After fighting pneumonia throughout January, he struggled to get back to full health.

On Saturday, he and his wife Lori traveled to Corvallis to have a family dinner with three of their children. On the way home, Pondo told Lori, "If I die tomorrow, I will have the fullest heart … It only took me 50 years to figure it out."

By Sunday afternoon, he was gone.

Husband, father, brother, son, and friend, the Mad Greek Deli owner was many things to many people — and he will be missed by all who knew him.

"I didn't know how much Pondo meant to people," said Chris Kosmas, Pondo's younger sibling. "My brother touched a lot of people's lives."

Pondo owned the Mad Greek Deli, a landmark on the corner of Northwest 185th Avenue and West Union Road. Situated in a former grocery store, the deli opened in 1977 and played host to many dedicated westside regulars until it closed about a year ago.

Mad Greek's Portland location on East Burnside, which Pondo opened is 2012, remains a vibrant community gathering place in the Buckman neighborhood and an official Portland Timbers pub — a fitting business for a Timbers fan.

Bill Geddes, a former Hillsboro resident, remembered Pondo as a hard worker and a good friend to many.

"He always seemed to be working so hard ... doing so much not just for his immediate family, but also for his employees and golfing buddies and school mates — his extended family," Geddes, now a Salem resident, wrote on Facebook Feb. 14. "My daughter and I stopped to grab a bite at [the] Buckman location Friday — a 'special' gyro and baklava (always the best around). He looked tired, but was in good spirits (I don't recall seeing him as an adult without a smile). We chatted about downsizing, family, our kids in college.

"He loved his family, and he was loved by many ... including me."

Loved the spotlight

SUBMITTED PHOTO - While his Mad Greek Deli on Southwest 185th Avenue closed more than a year ago, Pondo Kosmas still ran his Portland site.Dubbed Portland's most eligible bachelor by a local radio station in the late 1990s, Pondo had his fair share of publicity with a small part in the movie "Prefontaine" — about the late, great Oregon distance runner, Steve Prefontaine — as well as modeling gigs for Fred Meyer and Nike.

"He loved the spotlight," said friend Ramzy Hattar. "Pondo had a lot of articles written about him over the years. He deserved every one."

From his generosity and friendly nature to his outgoing personality and sometimes cocksure attitude about everything, his friends will remember him as a man who was always around to take care of those he loved — and occasionally even those he hardly knew.

"If you needed $20 and he had it, he'd give it to you," said friend George "Yiorgos" Sorovigas.

"There aren't many men like Pondo around anymore," Hattar said.

When his first wife Gina died of breast cancer in 2004, Pondo fought for custody of her three children — who were not biologically his.

"He didn't have to do that," Chris said. "But marriage changed him — made him a family man."

His marriage to Lori Kosmas three years after Gina's death only solidified his commitment to family.

With Lori bringing two children of her own into the relationship, Pondo took on all five kids as though they were his own.

"Those five kids will be his everlasting legacy," Chris said. "To see him go from the player he was to a devout family man speaks volumes of his character."

Pondo Kosmas was 49.