Thursday, October 14, 2004

Alex C. Papas, 84, made candy

WWII vet owned chocolate maker

By Rebecca Goodman
Enquirer staff writer

CRESTVIEW HILLS - Alex C. Papas, former owner of Chris A. Papas & Son Co. - the company that makes those popular chocolate-covered opera cream Easter eggs - died Monday of cancer at St. Elizabeth Medical Center South in Edgewood. The Crestview Hills resident was 84.

Diagnosed five years ago, he underwent treatment that put the disease into remission. Eight months ago he discovered the cancer had returned. He declined rapidly, according to his son Chris of Villa Hills.

Mr. Papas' father, also named Chris, was a Greek who emigrated to the United States from Macedonia in 1909. When he was 11, the junior Papas helped his father support the family by cleaning furnaces and delivering coal when they decided to experiment with candy recipes in the basement. "They were just fooling around with the candy," Mr. Papas' son said. "They were trying to make a dollar any way that they could."

They came up with a candy that they liked and began selling it on street corners. "When business got kind of slow in the warm months, they started making ice cream," his son said. "That's when they opened the ice cream parlor and soda shop."

In 1935 - the midst of the Great Depression - they set up a retail shop named Lily's Candies after Mr. Papas' mother. Mr. Papas left school after the eighth grade to help his father make the candy by hand, full-time.

Before he was inducted into the Army in 1942, he met Ann Zappa and asked her to "come work with me." She was making chocolates and he was stationed in West Virginia during the summer of 1943, when she traveled there to marry him before he was shipped out to Europe to fight in World War II. Mr. Papas was in the Battle of the Bulge.

After the war, he returned to Covington and to the growing candy business. He designed machines to make candy in order to keep up with demand. Today Papas opera creams are popular from Washington, D.C., to Arizona. The factory makes as many as 100,000 eggs in an eight-hour day during peak season - the three months before Easter.

Mr. Papas bought the production side of the business and renamed it Chris A. Papas & Son when his father retired in 1957. His sister Katherine Papas Hartmann purchased Lily's Candies and operated it until she sold it to her brother in 1987.

Mr. Papas was a member of Summit Hills Country Club for 37 years. He was a gifted ballroom dancer and competed internationally. Before he died, he told his children, "I've done everything, seen everything, and I have no regrets."

In addition to his son, survivors include his wife; two daughters, Connie Papas of Goshen and Pam Stenger of Walton; two other sons, Carl of Edgewood and Mark of Crestview Hills; two sisters, Joyce Papas of San Francisco and Rita Collister of Pompano Beach, Fla.; and 10 grandchildren.

Visitation is 4-8 p.m. today at Linnemann Funeral Home, 30 Commonwealth Ave. in Erlanger. Mass of Christian burial is 10 a.m. Friday at Blessed Sacrament Church, 2409 Dixie Highway in Fort Mitchell. A reception will follow in the church undercroft. Burial will be at Highland Cemetery in Fort Mitchell.

Memorials: Diocesan Catholic Children's Home, P.O. Box 17007, Fort Mitchell, KY 41017-9965.

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