27. George Peter Kailis (1900-1958), fishing empire founder
George Peter Kailis was born on the island of Castellorizo, Greece. After being evacuated to Alexandria, Egypt in 1912 when the Greeks were fighting the Turks, George and his father Peter arrived in Australia in 1914. They were later joined by his mother, Maria, after the war.
George worked as a cane-cutter in Queensland, a diver and a construction labourer in Darwin before coming to Western Australia. Under the migration agreement of the time, he had to spend two years cutting timber in the south-west near Nannup before taking up residence in Perth.
He married Evangelia Kannis and they had six children – four sons and two daughters. After the end of World War II, George and Evangelia Kailis were “family” for many new Greek migrants and at times had 15 to 20 people living in their home. “GP”, as George was known, found work and accommodation for the new arrivals.
George Kailis entered the fishing trade when he opened a shop in Barrack Street, Perth in 1936. The shop became well-known as a place for quality food and did not close its doors until 1990. The Kailis fishing empire, which he founded, was expanded by his sons from the late 1960s.
George Kailis was president of the Hellenic Community from 1947-1958 and a very generous benefactor to his community and Church. He died in 1958 and his wife Evangelia, only a few months later. The family commissioned a beautiful monument of St George and the dragon to mark his grave at Karrakatta Cemetery. This statue was badly damaged in the 1960s by vandals, but thankfully not beyond repair. It is an excellent example of beautiful memorials in Karrakatta Cemetery.