Timing is everything in life.
It was the summer of 1956. Western Grizzard, a field secretary for Civitan International, had traveled to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, looking to build a new club. He walked into the bank across the street from his hotel and asked the Vice President for the names of two people who could help him start a Civitan club.
That VP was the father-in-law of future Civitan, Peter Giftos.
“Ironically enough, I was just about to join the Rotary club.”
Grizzard took Giftos and fellow charter member John O’Connell to lunch where he told them about Civitan.
“[He told us] how they concentrated on young children with disabilities. That’s what got me started.”
Giftos had friends who had children with intellectual disabilities. He and O’Connell were made honorary members of the Springfield Club in 1956 and officially chartered the Pittsfield Civitan Club (now the Civitan Club of the Berkshires) on March 5, 1957. Giftos has been a proud Civitan ever since.
With over 60 years of service under his belt, youwould thinkit would be hard to pick one project as his favorite, but when asked, Giftos didn’t hesitate.
“We put on a bowling tournament for children who have disabilities. We do that once a year and I think it is the most fun.”
Giftos is a scorekeeper for the event which hosts 60-70 bowlers.
“It is wonderful to see them –especially when they score a strike. They think they have the whole world in the palm in their hand!”
The youngest of five brothers, Giftos enlisted in the military during World War II. At just 17 years, he never saw combat, but was trained in mechanized infantry.“I enlisted when I was 17 years old, but they would not take me because I was the youngest of five brothers and my four brothers were already in the service.”
His story was too similar to that of the Sullivan brothers; five brothers who worked on the same navel vessel and in 1942 were all lost when a torpedo sunk their ship. “I had to wait and wait and wait. I enlisted in the marines, the air force, the army, the navy, I enlisted in all of them because I wanted to get in there and help my brothers. By the time they took me, the war was just about over.”
At some point during the war, all four of his brothers were listed as missing or deceased, but all miraculously survived and returned home. Later, he and his brothers built and ran a family business in wholesale retail. Although he has been retired for over 20 years, he has not slowed down his pace in the community. “I still try to be active and involved in anything I can do.”
Just last year he stepped down from his board position with the Civitan Club of the Berkshires. He still attends club meetings and actively serves alongside his daughter, Dawn, who joined the club in 2007. Giftos has also spent time as a professional Boy Scout Officer and now serves as a Board Advisor for the Western Massachusetts Boy Scouts.
His advice to Civitans? “Make sure new members get involved!”When asked what he wants Civitans to know about him, Giftos had this to say, “I’m going to be93 years old this year. I was born in 1927 and all the things that I’ve gone through good times, bad times, I’m just grateful. I have no complaints.” 125% 1 / 2