Retirement for Peter Pantelis of Levittown involved many hours tinkering on his automobiles or his model trains and painting eggs for Greek Orthodox Easter at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Garden City, where he happened to be a stalwart of the congregation.
Those pleasant pastimes followed an often exciting career at Grumman Aerospace Corp. where his ability to work with his hands — something he retained all his life — put Pantelis on the cusp of major events in aviation history.
Working at the company’s Bethpage facility in the 1960s, Pantelis was part of a special team at Grumman that worked on the first Lunar Module. As an expert in wiring and soldering, Pantelis performed the painstaking and critical job of assembling components of the spacecraft. That same expertise led to a job at Grumman working on the first F-14A military fighter aircraft, and seeing it fly for the first time in 1970.
“He did what he loved,” said daughter Debra Bardi of Winchester, Massachusetts. “That is why he was so blessed.”
Pantelis, formerly of Uniondale, died July 16 at the age of 93. The son of Greek immigrants, Pantelis was born in Manhattan in 1924.
A graduate of Textile High School in Manhattan, he was inducted into the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1945 and spent about six months in Germany. He later took various jobs at transformer companies in Manhattan and Westchester.
He never went to college, but his mechanical and electrical aptitude catapulted him to a series of increasingly important positions.
His son Paul of Williamsburg, Virginia, said Pantelis began in the early 1950s to take on supervisory responsibilities as he set up a coil winding department at Reeves Instrument Corp. in Garden City.
He eventually landed at Grumman, where he worked from 1965 to late 1990. There, Pantelis was put to work on the lunar module for the Apollo 11 mission, making all types of panels, cables, black boxes from drawing and schematics.
Assigned to the module’s assembly area in Bethpage, Pantelis worked with engineers to install electronic equipment on the first space vehicle.
Grumman eventually used Pantelis as an instructor in specialized electronics. He also worked on the early F14-A fighter, his son said.
After retiring from Grumman, Pantelis kept busy at St. Paul and with family activities.
“He instilled in us the precious value of family bonds,” remembered his niece Alexandra Kathryn Mosca, a funeral director in Queens.
Pantelis also is survived by four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. His wife, Ann, died in 2009, and his sister Helen and brother Albert also predeceased him.
After a funeral Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul, Pantelis was interred July 22 with military honors at Pinelawn Memorial Park.