A community reeled as news spread that COVID-19 had claimed the lives of two longtime members of an extended family from the same Bergen County pizzeria.
Friends, loved ones and customers from Linwood Pizza in Fort Lee prayed hard for manager Gus Karageorge and primary pie guy Manny Macancela to survive the disease.
“Our hearts are broken after this week’s tragic turn of events,” the Missiris family, who own the landmark eatery near the George Washington Bridge, wrote Thursday.
Karageorge and Macancela “touched both the people they worked with and the community they served,” they added.
Jimmy Missiris began assembling his extended family after working for his father as a delivery boy at what was then Mr. Pizza nearly four decades ago.
Gus had been with Missiris more than 30 years. Manny was the main pizza chief, six days a week, for 25 years.
Despite the heavy concentration of pizzerias in East Bergen, the loyal duo helped distinguish the Linwood Plaza eatery.
“The workers in the food business sometimes go underappreciated,” wrote Missiris’s son, Ross. “Most people do not see the 14 hours a day, 7 days a week of work that is required of the workers in this industry.
“There are no pensions, no 401k's, no paid vacation days, no severance, and most days, no lunch or dinner breaks because they are busy serving customers their lunches and dinners.”
It hasn’t been easy on the Missirises, either.
Last year, Ross saved his dad’s life by donating a kidney.
With COVID rising, however, the transplant at Hackensack University Medical Center was delayed more than a month – creating only more stress.
Together they got through it, with Gus running the place the few months that doctors ordered Jimmy sidelined.
Both Gus and Manny leave behind a combined seven children, one of them with special needs.
The Missiris family has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help raise funds for their immediate families.
“All funds raised will go directly to their spouses and children to help them get through the difficult months and years ahead,” Ross Missiris wrote.
“We worked side by side [with them] 7 days a week serving the greater Fort Lee area,” he added. “Over that time we became family and formed friendships with our customers in a way that only a small family business can.
“No words can express how we feel right now. We miss them already.”
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