Selfless volunteer rewarded with City of Newcastle’s highest honour

City of Newcastle

More than 50 years of service to the community has earned Father Nicolaos Zervas OAM the honour of becoming the 17th Freeman of the City of Newcastle.

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes bestowed the award on the 90-year-old today during the Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church’s annual celebration for Greek Independence Day.

Father Nicholaos, wife Nina, Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes, Sharon Claydon MP, Tim Crakanthorp MP and CN councillors.Father Nicholaos Zervas wearing his medal with wife Nina, Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes, Sharon Claydon MP, Tim Crakanthorp MP and CN Councillors.

Cr Nelmes said Father Nicolaos’ selfless acts have benefitted multiple generations, from teaching scripture to children, through to volunteering with senior citizens.

“Father Nicolaos’ list of achievements spans decades, with a remarkable breadth of service to the community,” Cr Nelmes said.

“He has contributed to initiatives that not only advanced his local Greek community, but also across sectors of health and wellbeing, peace and justice, sport, and aged care, for all Novocastrians.”

Born in Greece in 1934, Nicolaos Zervas came to Australia in 1955. He initially opened a restaurant in Victoria, then one in Sydney, but his real dream was to become a priest.

After marrying his beloved wife Christina (Nina) in 1965, he was given an opportunity to move north where he was ordained by the Newcastle Greek community in 1973.

Twenty years later he was awarded the Order of Australia medal for his spirit of giving, volunteering with Meals on Wheels at Hamilton, the Northern Settlement Services, the Ethnic Communities Council and Lifeline.

Father Nicolaos is a founding member of Greek Day Care and a life member of Hippocrates Aged Care, Fronditha Aged Care Nursing Home and Newcastle Olympic Football Club.

Despite retiring from his role with the Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in July 2021 he still regularly visits people in nursing homes and hospitals.

Father Nicolaos said he was proud to receive the honour of being named Newcastle’s 17th Freeman of the City, a place he has called home for over 50 years.

“I was living in Sydney when I was given the option to relocate to Newcastle,” Father Nicolaos said.

“As soon as we arrived, I felt very at home, and I knew it was the place I wanted to work and raise my family in.

“It is emotional to be recognised by the City of Newcastle in this way. The support of my wife Nina, my four children and 10 grandchildren has enabled me to keep giving back to the community of St Demetrios and the people of Newcastle and now, even in retirement, it has been my absolute privilege to do so.”

Father Nicolaos joins an impressive list of fellow Novocastrians to be awarded the Freeman of the City honour including former Lord Mayor Joy Cummings, Surfest co-founder Warren Smith and writer, philanthropist and passionate historian, Vera Deacon.

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