Manoli and Valerie Savvenas were married in 1973. He died Dec. 31 at the age of 81. (Photo by Steve Pokin/Springfield Daily Citizen)

Manoli Savvenas, the jeweler of Glenstone once known as professional wrestler Mike Pappas the Flying Greek, died Dec. 31 at his Springfield home at 81. He had been battling colon cancer.

Visitation will be from 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 4, to 10 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 5, at Theotokos Unexpected Joy Orthodox Church, 810 W. Woodbine Road, Ash Grove.

Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Jan. 5 at the church, with burial to follow at Holy Resurrection Cemetery, Ash Grove.

Savvenas’ life was profiled in a Dec. 9, 2021, Pokin Around column in the Springfield Daily Citizen.

Manoli Savvenas was once Mike Pappas, The Flying Greek. He died Dec. 31. (Photo: submitted)

A local movie was made about his life

On Dec. 10, a 40-minute documentary film on Savvenas premiered at the Historic Fox Theatre, 157 Park Central Square in Springfield.

The film was made by Flintlock Syndicate Productions and directed and produced by Jason Brasier. Carbon Trace Productions is co-producer.

Moxie Cinema showed it in July.

Savvenas was the most unlikely pro-wrestler specimen. He was 5 foot 4 and never weighed more than 170 pounds.

Nevertheless, he once tag-teamed with Andre The Giant, who was 7-foot-4 and 520 pounds.

The four wrestlers in this photo are (left to right) Jay Strongbow, a Native American; Manoli Savvenas; Andre the Giant; and Jose Rivera. (Photo: submitted)

He grew up in poverty on island of Rhodes

Savvenas was born on the Greek island of Rhodes, in the Aegean Sea, a mere 28 miles from Turkey.

“When you woke up in the morning, you could see the mountains of Asia Minor,” he told the Springfield Daily Citizen.

His parents grew grapes and olives. His mother had 11 children. The family had no running water and no electricity. He did homework by the light of a kerosene lamp and was not a particularly good student, he said.

He and his siblings spent their days swimming in the sea and soaking up sun on the beach.

“Sometimes it was happy,” he said. “A lot of times, it was not very happy. A lot of times, we did not have enough to eat. I used to go to school in the morning, and I did not have breakfast.

“There was not much to eat. We would come back to the house after playing and have a slice of bread. We’d put some water on it and some sugar.”

Transfusion made him a ‘hilly-billy’

He married Valerie Barnes in 1973 in New Jersey. She was 18 and he was 32.

Eight years later, they would marry again in the Greek Orthodox Church in Rhodes.

Manoli Savvenas was told he was too small to work as a professional wrestler. So he went to Mexico where, in general, the pro wrestlers were not as big as their U.S. counterparts. (Photo: submitted)

They own Manoli’s Jewelers at 2700 S. Glenstone Ave., Springfield.

He joked that after he was given a blood transfusion as part of his cancer treatment here in the Ozarks, he was “for sure a Greek hilly-billy.”

He and his wife have three children: Paraskevas, Maria and Konstantinos. Savennas has a daughter, Constandina, from a prior relationship. That daughter had a twin sister, Konstantina, who died shortly after birth, before he met Valerie.

Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Springfield Daily Citizen. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin