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A couple of days ago, a friend posted on Facebook about the passing of his grandmother, whom he adored, and whom he wasn’t able to see or be with when she passed, because of concerns about the novel coronavirus. I thought about how many more people are going to find themselves in that situation over the next several weeks and months. Unfornately, Nia Vardalos is one of them. Her father, Gus, passed away on March 12, and she was unable to fly to Canada to be with him:
The My Big Fat Greek Wedding star, 57, could not go after her dad, Gus Vardalos, was hospitalized. Therefore, she did not get to see him in person again or attend his funeral. “They held up the phone to him and I got to thank him for an incredible life and tell him he was a gentleman and he was a great dad,” she told Variety in an interview published on Friday, March 20. “My mom held his hand and said, ‘It’s OK for you to go.’”
Gus died on March 12 at age 87. A service was held at a church in Canada and livestreamed for those who could not make it. Nia expressed gratitude for the way things worked out, however. “I always said my dad has impeccable timing,” she noted. “If he had gone 14 days ago when they weren’t acknowledging the global threat, we all would have gathered and it could have brought down the city and also we would have gone back to all our communities and could have spread something. He waited until the church said they couldn’t have any more large gatherings. I think my father knew he was keeping people safe.”
In the wake of her father’s passing, Nia is helping nonprofits that need it. She’s on Instagram and Twitter asking her followers to make donations and spread the word using the hashtag #bigfatdonation. She’s also encouraging them to tag celebrities, too.
Here is my simple request to raise $$. Retweet plus tag your favorite celebrity, ask politely if they could make a #bigfatdonation to any charity to get #masks #gloves #food #shelter to those in need. #COVID19 https://t.co/Mti8qFoWRm
— Nia Vardalos (@NiaVardalos) March 19, 2020
Nia told Variety that she last saw her dad at Christmas: “It was like watching your favorite wind-up toy slowly slowly losing its batteries over the last year.” She said that she thought then that it might be the last time she would see him. It’s absolutely heartbreaking that Nia couldn’t be with her father in his last moments. As a mark of the surreal times that we are now in, one of the first things I thought when I read that Kenny Rogers had passed away surrounded by his family was how lucky they and he were to be together, not because that’s always a gift (though it is), but because I was glad that they were able to travel to him. I’m so sorry that Nia lost her dad, but glad that she’s been able to channel her grief into doing things in his honor and bringing people together to help, too.
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Update Edit: SO MANY OF YOU DM’d me and donated, thank you! Please repost, tag your favorite celebrities with this post and tag your favorite charity. We can do good. #❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️This is a call-out to people in my industry to donate money to get goods, services and care to those in need. Today we buried my dad, Constantine “Gus” Vardalos, 1932-2020, pictured here on the set of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, with Michael Constantine who plays Gus. My dad played the church Chanter in both movies. I wrote the wedding movies about my real family and yes the character of Gus is based on my dad. My dad passed away from natural causes and because of #socialdistancing we could not give him the large funeral he earned with his wonderful life. But as we #StayHome during #Covid19 to protect my mom, all parents, each other, and the globe, let’s move past the toilet paper hoarding jokes and the videos from celebs. We can do this. Donate money, masks, gloves, food, anything. I am grateful for my life, this last week of mourning made me even more sure that giving back and connectivity is the way forward. Also, DM me if you want to donate and are looking for a certified outlet who will use your funds to do good. If you have a little money to spare, donate a little. If you have a lot, please consider helping the many who need food, masks, gloves. Open your big fat wallets and donate. Let’s do something good. 🍎🍊 #bigfatdonation