A couple nights I heard that Pete Koromilas past away. Pete is the long time owner of the local diner (Ellam's Restaurant) that has existed since the 50s. Though I've never actually been a customer at Ellam's Restaurant, I've been inspired by Pete's presence in the downtown core. For years I've walked down Ontario street, mindlessly looking into shop windows and every so often I'll see Pete sitting inside of Ellam's, mostly on his own lately. His wife past away just a couple years back, and he hasn't been the same since.
I feel a range of emotions when I see him, often times I'll just feel inspired by his perseverance. There has been two occasions over the years that I've stopped in, and asked if I can take his portrait. Recently was actually the night that I heard of Doe Wilson's passing. Another Stratford Icon who I've spoken to for years and photographed twice.
Since moving back to Stratford after a couple years in Toronto I have been working the midnight shift at a local factory. It was Sunday May 14 2017, early evening. I woke up a couple hours before my alarm went off and checked my phone to see what time it was (around 7PM). I noticed an unusual amount of Facebook messages, so I took a quick look when I saw a Facebook friend tag me in a comment about Doe Wilson's passing. Just earlier that week I was planning a summer portrait series that would feature Doe Wilson as well as Pete from Ellam's Diner. I immediately felt sad about losing Doe, and thought what's the point of waiting any longer, why not approach Pete if he happens to be at the Diner. So I got dressed, grabbed my camera and headed out.
Sure enough Pete was alone in the dark empty restaurant, so I knocked on the window and entered when he warmly waved me in. I told him about my project and asked if I could take a few portraits of him, and at first he seemed confused as to why I'd want to take his picture, but was happy to do a few quick poses.
We ended up hanging out and shooting for about 45 minutes until the sun fully set.
Rest in peace Panayote "Peter" Koromilas, 1931-2018.