Farewell to Pete “Mr. Pete” Skenteris
By Bill Kirby Jr.
There’s a pall atop the hill of Haymount this day as a community mourns the death of Pete Skenteris, the longtime owner of the old Hamont Grill & Steak House.
Mr. Skenteris died Monday.
He was 85.
A Greek immigrant, Mr. Skenteris first came to the popular restaurant on Sept. 9, 1956, when it was owned by the late Steve Fermanides. Mr. Skenteris purchased the restaurant outright in 1967 and operated it until April 9, 2016, when the restaurant was destroyed by an early-morning fire.
“I can’t believe this,” Mr. Skenteris said as the restaurant later was demolished. “I was 13 years old when I came here from Greece and had nothing. I’m sick to my stomach.”
His restaurant was a community staple, and something of a gathering place for civic and community leaders, politicians, preachers, and always a Sunday lunch destination for after-church-goers who enjoyed the Lazy Susan salad dressings and Melba toast to the Tapioca pudding.
For Mr. Skenteris and his wife, Frederika, customers became lifelong friends.
“The Hamont Grill was his pride and joy,” Katherine Fasul says, “and was visited by many celebrities and politicians.”
Oh, yes, the politicians.
“The Haymont Grill and Mr. Pete were the welcome mat for Fayetteville for any and all,” George Breece says. “And if you were running for office and lived inside or outside of Cumberland County, his restaurant was a must-stop to meet and greet. Mr. Pete welcomed senators, congressman, governors, presidential candidates and your everyday average person, and treated them all the same way.”
And something else.
“He made the best chicken soup on the planet,” Breece says.
Mr. Skenteris was known for bringing his relatives to Fayetteville from his homeland, and many became restaurant owners, too. They followed in Mr. Skenteris’ restaurant footsteps, notably Greg Kalevas, who now owns Chris’s Steak & Seafood Restaurant on Raeford Road.
Mr. Skenteris rebuilt on the site of the old Hamont Grill & Steak House, with plans to open retail shops downstairs and upstairs apartments.
Mr. Skenteris often was a familiar figure at the annual World’s Largest Spaghetti Dinner each fall, a fundraiser for his beloved Saints and Helen Greek Orthodox Church.
“Having served on the church parish council with Mr. Pete for many years, I found that he was a kind man who was dedicated to his church, family and community,” Miss Fasul said. “I never heard or saw him get angry at anyone. He was always ready to give a helping hand whenever it was needed. My sisters and I will miss him dearly.”
Mr. Skenteris is survived by his wife, Frederika Skenteris; his children, Deno Skenteris, Faye Skenteris Stamitoles and her husband, Dr. Charles Stamitoles, and Jimmy Skenteris; his grandchildren, Charles Stamitoles Jr., Frederika Skenteris, Peter Stamitoles, Pete Skenteris, Michael Skenteris, and Stella-Kathryn Skenteris; his sisters, Georgia Mantekas, Cleo Stathopoulos, Presbytera Noula Vlachos. He is predeceased by his parents; Konstantinos and Photini Skenteris; his brothers, Arthur and George Skenteris; his sisters, Petroula Kalevas, Angela Kotsokalis, and Xanthi Kalevas.
A visitation and Trisagion is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Thursday at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, 614 Oakridge Avenue.
Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or 910-624-1961