Peter S. Koromilas '49

My father, Peter S. Koromilas ’49, died on Sunday, June 10, in Bethesda, MD, after spending four months in a hospital in Washington, DC, fighting lung cancer.  He died as courageously as he lived the seventy-eight years of his life, overcoming adversity with down to earth pragmatism and a characteristically understated sense of humor.  Unable to speak due to a tracheotomy, he nevertheless engaged all those around him with a smile, a gesture and a sparkle in his eye.

Peter came to Amherst from Dover, NH, in 1946, the same year his brother, James Koromilas ’49, who was four years older, came to Amherst after serving in the war.  Peter, who had tried to enlist, just missed the war and was, therefore, in the younger group of men in his Class, many of whom were older veterans like Jim.  Although he did not serve in World War II and he chose Amherst instead of West Point, which he had seriously considered attending, he never lost the drive to serve his country and was able to do so, not in a military capacity, but diplomatically through the foreign service and the CIA.  During his thirty-seven years of service, his patriotism, keen sense of foreign affairs, and perspective on history, culture and people took him far in his career.  He rose to senior ranks in the CIA and served as chief of station four times, twice running key stations in Europe and the Middle East.  Peter had grown up in a household that encouraged political debate, and he enjoyed matching wits against others, sometimes taking on a self-professed “contrarian” point of view just to see where that would take the discussion.  He loved a lively debate!  While he studied chemistry at Amherst and earned a masters degree at the Univ. of New Hampshire, his love of action took him out of the lab and into the human arena, where he enjoyed seeing what was “cooking.”  His studies at Amherst and the exposure to new ways of thinking and being, so prevalent there, inspired him to be a “Renaissance man,” with interest and knowledge of many areas of human enterprise.  Curious, passionate, reflective, and intuitive, he learned to be versatile and adaptable.  He could communicate with all kinds of people, from the sheep herders on the plains of northern Greece, where he spent several years in Kavala, to European nobility at diplomatic functions in the Hague.  He attempted to understand the universal principles that drive human beings and create common ground.  Warm hearted, he was generous to those around him and usually looked to the needs of others before his own.  

Peter was a great outdoorsman, loving to camp, hunt, and fish in his spare time.  He was very knowledgeable about the woods and survival techniques away from the comforts of home.  He loved to explore remote mountain streams, daring to follow the most challenging dirt roads through mud holes and along scary ravines to places that seemed like the end of the earth!  He taught us to sleep under the stars!  Before these became popular, he believed in eating organic foods, avoiding chemicals and over processed foods, and in the curative power of herbs, occasionally foraging a weed or two in his path for their medicinal properties.  And, of course, poker and backgammon were favorite hobbies, which he played more for fun, I was told by his regular group, than to win.  Loyal to his friends, he was also loyal to his college.  Attending all his college reunions, he brought his family to see his fraternity and the gym where he was on the swim and wrestling teams.  When it came time to go to college, there was no question where I would go, and I enjoyed being in North Dormitory where he had also stayed while at Amherst.

Mostly, Peter was a family man.  He was a steadfast father and husband.  Though he embraced the big picture in human affairs, he believed in family values.  Having traveled the world, he chose to be buried in Dover, NH, at a family site.  Although he had not lived there in many decades, he wanted to return to his roots, to a small town in New England whose movie theater, where he held one of his first jobs as an usher, still stands unchanged!  He leaves behind a brother, his wife, two children, five grandchildren, many nieces, nephews and friends.  For a life well lived, we say “Good show!”  May we be inspired by his spirit!

—Paula Koromilas Burke Robyn ’78