Getting On With His Life : Deaths of Parents Not Stopping PLNC's Evangelidis

TIMES STAFF WRITER

When his best friend's mother died a year ago, Point Loma Nazarene soccer player George Evangelidis was amazed at her show of strength.

"I thought if that happened to me, my life would be a wreck. My mother was everything to me," Evangelidis said. "But that's not what happened. Life does go on. I have to carry on."

On Sept. 21, Evangelidis returned from school and soccer practice to find his mother, Kalliope, in their living room, dead from stab wounds he later learned were inflicted by his father, Alex.

George then learned that his father was also dead. Alex had stabbed himself and drove off a 600-foot embankment on California 94, about a mile west of Tecate.

On Sept. 22, Evangelidis carried his sorrow to the soccer field, where he participated in the Crusaders' 2-0 victory over Christian Heritage.

The decision to play so soon after the death of his parents was easier for Evangelidis than it was for first-year Coach Greg Armbrust, but it was a joint decision.

"Soccer for me, it's my life. I love it," Evangelidis said. "I didn't think it was good for me not to get (my emotions) out. I think it helped me. It was hard, but I tried not to shift my focus (from the game)."

There was concern on Armbrust's part that once the game ended, Evangelidis might be worse off than if he hadn't played.

"When you're in a game, you're going hard and you get this adrenalin high," he said. "Sometimes you come off that, and you're more depressed than when you started. But I talked to my assistants, we talked it over with (George), and we prayed about it."

Instinct and prayer told Armbrust that giving Evangelidis--a starter who the coach said is a great player with great skills--the chance to play might prove therapeutic.

"I thought that by allowing him to play, he could keep his mind off it for a while. I know myself, as an athlete, loving the game, it's an outlet, an escape," Armbrust said.

George's mother never found the means to escape from the stranglehold her husband had on her in their stormy 25-year relationship.

"Living with dad was hard," said George, who grew up in Greece. "It wasn't very good. He kept the whole family apart. His character was strange. She didn't have the courage to break away from him."

His father never shared the close bond Evangelidis developed with his mother. But Kalliope didn't want her son to grow up without a father, so she did what she could to keep them together.

"She raised me so I could have a dad," said Evangelidis, an only child. "She'd wake up early, go to work, clean for my dad, all of that . . . I blame him for the life he gave her. He never gave her anything; he never gave me anything."

About six years ago, the Evangelidis family, including Kalliope's mother, moved to San Diego. Evangelidis played soccer at Mira Mesa High his senior year, then played at Mesa College for two years before he transferred to PLNC this year.

Although his parents had been divorced for three years, Alex never moved out of the house. Evangelidis attributed his father's display of rage to the happiness his mother had found in a new relationship.

"He wasn't stressed out, I think he was jealous that she found someone," he said.

His father's threats to kill his mother--and repeated beatings--were isolated. Alex never threatened his son. Still, George never dreamed he was capable of such an act.

"He said stuff to friends, but no one believed him. " Evangelidis said. "For what he did, his mind wasn't straight. He was crazy for that one moment."

Whether Evangelidis can, or even needs to, forgive his father isn't a question he can answer now.

"I don't know about that, where I stand on that," he said. "There are millions of things I could blame it on, but nothing could have changed what happened."

Nothing that has happened has changed his immediate plans or those for his future.

Evangelidis, 22, and his grandmother have since moved in with the parents of his girlfriend, where they will stay until they find their own place.

It was his mother's dream to open her own pastry shop--she worked in a bakery at the time of her death. It was a goal she and her son planned to pursue it together. Now, Evangelidis would like to open a coffee shop, possibly in San Diego, after he graduates.

"My goals haven't changed," the junior business administration major said. "It's just a different situation now."

Not only for Evangelidis, but for the entire soccer team. The tragedy has exacted a toll on it as well. The week following the deaths, the team won its first two games. Since then, it has lost two more and tied another.

"It's affected us," Armbrust said. "We haven't played a decent game since. I'm not using it as an excuse, but deep down inside, I think it has a lot to do with it."

Said junior captain Justus Heyman: "When (the news) hit us, it was shock. It's been really hard to focus, and I think our play has showed that."

Armbrust has dealt with team crises before, but he hardly had a blueprint on how to handle this one.

"There were a lot of questions, and (the players) didn't know what to say to (George) initially. We prayed for understanding and wisdom," Armbrust said.

Not only for their teammate, but for themselves.

"I've learned from this that we're not in control," senior goalkeeper Jason Breum said. "It made me think that there are a lot of things I haven't said to my parents."

From the coaches on down, the team has stressed that words aren't the most important thing Evangelidis needs right now. Any sign of support will do.

"We've tried to move on, George has tried to go on," Heyman said. "We don't drill him with a lot of questions, but everyone's there for him, as a family,"

Armbrust said many team members attended the funeral, and they are on call if Evangelidis needs them.

"We need to be there for him, be a support valve in whatever capacity he needs it, even if it's just to hang out," Armbrust said.

The outpouring of love and support from his girlfriend and her family, from the Greek community and from the soccer team hasn't escaped the notice of Evangelidis.

"The people I love have been there for me," he said. "It's brought us closer together. I don't know what will happen in the future, but for now, I'm doing very well."

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