Peter J. Moralis, a retired labor leader who had been area director for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFL-CIO) international's Maryland and District of Columbia district, died of a heart attack Sunday at his Hunt Valley home. He was 80.
Born in Athens, Greece, the son of refugees from Asia Minor, Mr. Moralis was 40 days old when he immigrated with his family to the United States, landing at Ellis Island in New York Harbor.
The family then traveled to Baltimore, where they resided in a home on Reisterstown Road. He was a 1947 graduate of Franklin High School.
His family, who owned and operated a restaurant and Moralis' Liquors on Harford Road, later moved to Royston Avenue in Hamilton.
During the Korean War, he enlisted in the Air Force and was assigned to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss., where he was a radar technician.
While in the service, Mr. Moralis met his future wife, the former Sarah Vrachalus, while attending Good Friday services in Mobile, Ala.
"Her father invited him to dinner for the Easter celebration and their love began," said a son, the Very Rev. Constantine Moralis, who is dean of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation in Baltimore.
They were married in 1954 after he was discharged from the Air Force and the young couple lived in his parent's home in Hamilton, before moving to Lutherville, where they lived for 50 years.
Mr. Moralis worked for Martin-Marietta Corp. before becoming active as a union organizer with AFSCME in the early 1960s.
"He dedicated his life to working for ASCME that spanned three decades," Father Moralis said.
"He made sure that all people were treated with dignity, respect and equally. Countless times he led or participated in protests, picketed and was arrested numerous times for standing up for what he believed," his son said.
"In the eyes of many, he was a hero who triumphed over so many adversities. He even protested in Memphis during the garbage strike in the 1960s with Martin Luther King Jr.," Father Moralis recalled.
Mr. Moralis was fully capable of bluntness and tough talk when the situation called for it.
During the summer of 1975, Mr. Moralis conducted interviews with scores of candidates seeking the endorsement of organized labor.
An article in The Baltimore Sun recounted that, as a 5th District City Council candidate "poured word after mellifluous word at the panel of labor leaders seated around him, Peter J. Moralis leaned back in his chair, folded his hands across his chest, and let a weary smile appear on his face.
" 'Mr. Candidate,' he said when the speaker concluded, " 'you're bull---- me,'" The Sun reported.
He said in the interview that "Some guys come in here promising us everything. Everything we say they sit there and nod, 'Yes, yes, I'm for that.' But a lot of them don't know what they're talking about. They don't know their districts. Sometimes I really get scared, thinking, 'What if this dumb sonuvabitch wins?' "
"He was one of the finest people I've ever met in organized labor. He was absolutely dedicated to organized labor," said Tom Toporovich, former secretary to the Baltimore County Council and a Dundalk community leader. "He had the ability to listen to both sides and try to come to a conclusion that was satisfactory to both."
During the 1980s, Mr. Moralis served on the staff of Maryland Republican Sen. Charles McC. Mathias, Jr., and played a pivotal role in garnering support of statewide labor for Mathias' 1980 re-election campaign.
Dan D. Zaccagnini, a veteran political adviser and a former member of the Maryland Parole Commission, was an old friend and colleague when both served on Senator Mathias' staff.
"I first met Pete years ago when he was beginning his career in organized labor," Mr. Zaccagnini said
"He began in the streets and quickly advanced through the ranks. He was devoted to labor. It was his life," he said. "Pete was more than a labor guy to me; he was a close personal friend."
Mr. Moralis served as a delegate to the Democratic presidential nominating conventions that nominated Michael S. Dukakis in 1988 and Bill Clinton in 1992.
He retired in 1994.
Mr. Moralis was a longtime active member of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, where he had been treasurer of the cathedral's parish council and served on many committees and assisted with church festivals.
He was a past president of the American Hellenic Progressive Association, where he recently had been recognized for 50 years of service to the organization.
For the last 15 years, Mr. Moralis experienced failing health. He suffered a stroke and endured a hip replacement that later resulted in losing his leg from an infection.
"He did his best to carry on and to lead as normal a life as possible and to be independent," his son said. "He was strong, and his children recall that his voice could be heard for blocks."
Father Moralis said his father still had end-of-life goals.
"He wanted to see his 80th birthday, celebrate his 55th wedding anniversary, and be part of one more Christmas and New Year's," his son said. "He saw all of them."
Services for Mr. Moralis will be held at 11 a.m. today at his church, 24 W. Preston St.
Also surviving in addition to his wife are another son, John Moralis of Mobile; a daughter, Angela Moralis of Mays Chapel; a sister, Mary Moralis Kariotis of Randallstown; and five grandchildren.