Lou Economou left impressive athletic, Greek legacy in Saginaw, Bay City


Lou Economou, who emigrated from Greece during its civil war and became a leading figure in Saginaw-area athletics, died Monday. He was 80.

Economou’s family, led by his dad Father Gregory Economou, fled Greece, locating in Lowell, Massachusetts before coming to Saginaw in 1951. Lou Economou became a three-sport star at Saginaw High, graduating in 1959. He starred at tailback for Alma College.

“He was a great athlete …  a great sprinter,” Saginaw County Sports Hall of Fame president Jack Tany said. “After college, he became an assistant football coach and vice principle of discipline at Sagnaw High. He was really intimidating.”

Economou moved on to Carrollton High School, where he was the athletic director and vice principal of discipline.

“He was known at Carrollton for his fundraising,” Tany said. “They always had nice uniforms. Their basketball coaches always had red blazers with patches on them. He and Harold Campau brought the Russian volleyball team to Carrollton for an exhibition as part of a goodwill tour.

“Lou always believed that if you were going to do something, do it right. He would fight for his coaches. He never favored the boys over the girls. He really backed the girls basketball and volleyball programs at Carrollton.”

After Carrollton, he became the Bay City Public Schools district athletic director and then finished his administrative career as an advisor in Texas. He also was an inaugural board member of the Saginaw County Sports Hall of Fame.

But first and foremost, Economou was Greek.

Economou’s dad, Father Gregory Economou, was a priest in Greece during the post-World War II Civil War in Greece.

“His dad was the priest and a leader of the underground against the communists,” former Carrollton coach Bill DeLong said. “He was condemned to death a couple times. He had to flee into the mountains, and he sent his family to Lowell (Massachusetts). After the war was over, his dad joined them and came to Saginaw.

“Nobody’s quite sure how old Lou was. They lived in a village in Greece, and a fire burned the records. When they asked his mother (Alexandra), she only remembered that Lou was born on Easter, but wasn’t sure of the year. So he’s either 80 or 81.”

The family moved to Saginaw in 1951.

“He came to Saginaw and didn’t speak English,” DeLong said. “So he had to fight almost every day going back and forth to school. He went to Longstreet Elementary then Central Junior before Saginaw High.”

His dad helped form St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Saginaw, with Father Gregory serving as the pastor. Lou Economou helped organize the Saginaw Greek Festival in 1979.

“He was extremely proud of his church and the festival,” DeLong said. “He put a lot of time and effort into both.  He took great pride in his ethnicity.

“I was a coach at Carrollton, and I hadn’t gone to church in a long time. He asked me to come to his church. I went in 1982 and have been going there ever since. He was a go-getter, a fair and honest person. He did a lot of good things for a lot of people.”

He taught DeLong a few things.

“He was a very good cook, and he taught me how to cook lamb on a spit,” DeLong said. “He was a very good leader. I learned a lot of things from him, not just as a coach. Basically, be honest. Treat people fairly.

“Lou did that.”

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