The Sewing-Machine Savior

Eleven. That’s the number that forever altered Sakis Karagiannakis‘ life. That’s how old he was when his father died, paving the way for his becoming the prime provider for his mother and two sisters. OK, he did get to finish grammar school and his older sister did get hired out, too, but by 13, he was working full time repairing bicycles and motorcycles. “I always wanted to be an airplane mechanic, but I never got to go to school,” says Sakis, owner of SK, the neighborhood’s only sewing machine fix-it shop and supplier of stitchery supplies like foot …

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The Big Guy With the Cute Beagle

Prominently positioned in the living room, there’s a recliner upholstered in corduroy the color of a Christmas tree. It’s right next to a framed poster of an Ansel Adams’ photo of Yosemite National Park. When Bob Koch walks in, Caesar, a benevolent Beagle with big eyes, is lounging in it. Up until Caesar’s arrival 2 ½ years ago, it was Bob’s chair. “Now, it’s our chair,” he says, squeezing himself around the dog, who gives him a sloppy kiss. Bob is a big guy who looks like Captain Kangaroo. He used to be an Air Force sergeant, …

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The Steady Shoe-Shine Man

“Shoe Repair & Shine.” That’s what the sign says in big, snow-white letters. But it’s probably been there since Kennedy was president; no doubt the owner never bothered to update it. After all, who shines shoes any more? Open the old wooden door, and there’s Gonzalo Zhicay vigorously buffing the knee-high boots of a young woman as she sits on a wooden throne, her wedge heels propped up on shiny brass stands. There’s a rhythm to his work; back and forth, back and forth with the soft blue cloth flashing like lightning. Five minutes later, her boots …

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The Ageless Storyteller

It never would have happened if she hadn’t told that one little white lie. Betty Deudon can’t really be held responsible. After all, she was only a schoolgirl standing on the sidewalk by Long Island City High with a classmate when the handsome French sailors, their red-pomponed hats rakishly askew, strode by. “Let’s pick them up,” Betty told her girlfriend. She smiles at the memory. “I didn’t speak French, but my friend did, and when they asked me how old I was, I said 16. I was really only 14.” Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling Betty’s story …

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