PARK SLOPE – Michael Halkias, a Brooklyn legend and the owner of the Grand Prospect Hall, died yesterday afternoon. He was 82.
Halkias, described as a philanthropist and a “lover of Greek letters and culture,” was fighting the coronavirus at Lenox Hill Hospital when he passed away on Wednesday, May 6, his daughter Josephine Halkias-Tsarnas confirmed on Facebook.
“I never imagined my trip to Aruba in Feb. would be the last time I’m with my parents. I write this with an empty heart, a void which will never be filled,” she said. “I was my dad’s secretary at 14, I watched him move & shake as I grew to be his partner in business & confidant. He was my idol, my star from as little as I can remember.”
“I will never forget when a boyfriend broke up with me & dad spent two nights in my apartment consoling me. He was funny, charming, brilliant and I learned so much from him. He adored my mother & exemplified what love, admiration for a wife is all about,” she continued. “For all the people he made ‘your wedding dreams come true,’ know he loved what he did! For those young people he took under his wing & trained; it was his pleasure to teach. I will live through him, as I have all my life. Love you douki!”
Halkias was born on September 6, 1937, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When he was two, his family moved to Piraeus, Greece where his father wanted to build a house, Anamniseis, a Greek news outlet reported. Because of the German occupation, they were “trapped” there. When Halkias was 18, he finally returned to the U.S. He graduated from the Hellenic College and the Theological School of the Holy Cross in Boston, and after graduating, he moved to New York. For a while, he worked in the advertising department at the National Herald and then acquired his own travel agency which allowed him to publish Greek American, a bilingual newspaper that published until 1974.
Then, in 1981, Halkias and his wife Alice bought the famous event center, known for its line, “We make your dreams come true.”
We spoke to Halkias back in 2017 about the Grand Prospect Hall, where he told us, “For me to exist, I have to bring in larger groups,” adding that it is necessary for him to “bring in large events” in order to pay his six-figure real estate taxes. The beautiful, grand space gave opportunities to Greek (and other “well-to-do”) organizations to organize fundraising, cultural, political, and social events.
Council Member Brad Lander had this to say about the late philanthropist: “Michael Halkias was a one-of-a-kind Brooklyn personality. Can’t count how many events we’ve all attended there, or how many times we got to see his big smile. It’s impossible to measure what this virus is stealing from the life of our city.”
Halkias is survived by his wife Alice; his children Josephine, Elias, and Dimitris; his five grandchildren; and his one great-granddaughter Despina.
“He was a man with big vision and an even bigger heart,” State Senator Andrew Gounardes said. “And of course, he made dreams come true for thousands of people who celebrated at his hall. May his memory be eternal.”