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Paspalis, Michael Theodosios (1911–1972)

by Helen J. Wilson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Michael Theodosios Paspalis (1911-1972), by unknown photographer, 1970

Michael Theodosios Paspalis (1911-1972), by unknown photographer, 1970

Chrissie Paspalis Collectcion, Northern Territory Library, PH0422/0045

Michael Theodosios Paspalis (1911-1972), businessman, was born on 14 November 1911 on Kastellorizon (Megisti), a Greek island near Turkey, second of six children of Theodosios Paspalis (d.1921), shopkeeper, and his wife Chrisaphina, née Stampoli. In 1917 the family reached Point Sampson, near Port Hedland, Western Australia. Educated at Port Hedland, Mick helped his father in various ventures, including pearling and storekeeping. About 1927 he moved to Darwin.

In 1930, eager to join the local rifle-club, Paspalis sought Australian citizenship, but it was not until 16 June 1933 that he was naturalized. By this time he was employed as a 'motor driver' by a butcher; later he drove his own taxi. On 27 January 1935 at the Hellenic Hall, Northbridge, Perth, he married Chrysamthi (Chrissie) Kailis with Greek Orthodox rites. They ran a café in Smith Street, Darwin, before opening the Rendezvous Café, a Mediterranean-style coffee-house. Paspalis brought fresh fruit, vegetables, ice-cream and chocolates to the town. By 1940 he owned four blocks of land. Following the bombing of Darwin in February 1942, he spent the remaining years of World War II working at the Flying Boat Base, Rose Bay, Sydney.

At the end of the war the Commonwealth government compulsorily acquired all freehold land in Darwin. Paspalis received £34,210 in compensation for his holdings. After obtaining short-term leases, he began to renovate his properties. On 11 April 1947 he successfully tendered for the Hotel Darwin; in 1951 he was granted a ninety-nine-year lease on the premises; in 1957 he leased the hotel to a brewery. He had built his home on East Point Road by 1956 and subsequently bought another residence in Sydney. In 1962 he was described as a millionaire.

Paspalis had extensive interests in property in Darwin. He built hotels at Fannie Bay and Nightcliff, a number of shops, the Parap Theatre and the city's only drive-in cinema. For many years he represented Peter's ice-cream in the Northern Territory and was a board-member of Paul's (N.T.) Pty Ltd (later part of Queensland United Foods Ltd). He took charge of the planning of his business undertakings and his wife attended to day-to-day administration. A non-smoker and a moderate drinker, Paspalis was 5 ft 7½ ins (172 cm) tall and remarkably strong. Although he seemed to enjoy 'few pleasures' outside his work and described himself as 'just a simple peasant', he was a more complex and sensitive man than his business associates thought. If he was hard on his employees, he was also fair, and generous.

In the 1960s Paspalis was an honoured benefactor of the Greek Church and community, both in Darwin and Sydney. In the Northern Territory he served (from 1967) as honorary consul for Greece. The St John Ambulance Brigade and Christ Church Anglican Cathedral, Darwin, also benefited from his philanthropy. In 1964 he was appointed M.B.E. He belonged to Rotary, the Darwin Club and Tattersall's Club, Sydney. Survived by his wife and two daughters, he died suddenly of a coronary occlusion on 17 October 1972 in Darwin and was buried in McMillans Road cemetery; his estate was sworn for probate at almost $3 million.

Select Bibliography

  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 8 July 1967
  • Daily Mirror (Sydney), 6 Oct 1976
  • Northern Territory News, 22 Oct 1959, 10 Apr 1962, 2 Jan 1964, 18, 20 Oct 1972, 1 May 1995
  • A1 32/10758, E37 1957/453, E68 DP440, E68 DP846, F1 1948/119, F1 1950/476, F1 1956/2217, F1 1959/654, F1 1963/1672, F1 1963/555 (National Archives of Australia)
  • NTRS226, TS101/2 (Northern Territory Archives)
  • private information.

Citation details

Helen J. Wilson, 'Paspalis, Michael Theodosios (1911–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/paspalis-michael-theodosios-11348/text20269, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 20 July 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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