The recent death of local businessman William A. Lamas is a loss to his family, his customers and the Hinesville community.
The 59-year-old passed away shortly after midnight Monday with his family by his bedside at Savannah’s Memorial University Medical Center, according to Dawn Morrell, assistant manager of Lamas Cleaners, formerly owned by Lamas.
“He was just a really good man,” Morrell said. “Billy — that’s what he wanted us to call him — took care of his family, his friends and his employees. In fact, he called us his family.”
Morrell couldn’t put into words what her heart wanted to say about her former employer, whom she said would be dearly missed by “everyone.” She expected the 110-year-old family business would continue to serve the community “because that’s what Billy would have wanted.”
Drew Lamas said his father had long suffered with an illness. He was in and out of the hospital a lot during the past year, spending the last few weeks of his life in intensive care. Lamas said his father’s condition improved somewhat over St. Patrick’s Day weekend, and he was grateful to have had time to hold a real conversation with him. His father’s condition then began to worsen.
“He passed away peacefully,” Lamas said with a sigh. “All of us — my mother, Catherine (Lamas), my sister, Ashley (Bowden) and my Aunt Cherie (Holmes) — were there with him. I was holding his hand — shaking it, actually — when he passed. It was a sad release, but he wasn’t in any pain.”
Lamas said the family business began with his great-grandfather, Charles Lamas, who came to Savannah in 1889 from Thessalonica, Greece. In 1903, Charles Lamas opened Lamas Cleaners at the corner of Abercorn Street and Victory Drive. Three of his five sons — Louis, Marco and Andy — later took over the business, but Andy, Drew Lamas’ grandfather, left the family business in 1968 for a career in real estate. He said his grandfather was responsible for a lot of the development on Wilmington Island.
In 1970, Drew said his Uncle Marco opened Marco Cleaners, which was followed by other stores in Savannah. The family then decided to branch out of Savannah and open a store in Hinesville. His father retired in 1999 from M.J. Hogan & Company on the Savannah waterfront and joined the family business. He bought the cleaners in Hinesville and renamed it Lamas Cleaners Inc.
“We couldn’t ask for better customers,” Drew Lamas said. “We’ve got multiple generations of families that have been doing business with us. That includes the Hinesville Police Department, Liberty County Sheriff’s Office and the Midway Police Department. We have a great relationship with the whole city.”
He praised the cooperation the city gave his father during the Memorial Drive reconstruction.
Drew Lamas, who recently graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in business and marketing, began working with the family business in January. He said the family would “keep the doors open” at the Hinesville store with the same management in place and his mother as the owner. He described his role as operator, saying he would be helping out wherever he could, starting with updating the company website, www.lamascleaners.com.
A viewing was held for William Lamas was held Wednesday evening at Fairhaven Funeral Home in Savannah. Funeral services were held Thursday afternoon at St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church in Savannah.
William Lamas is survived by his sister, wife, son, daughter, son-in-law Walter Bowden and grandson Tyler William Bowden.