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Family grieves loss of uncle in Saugus hit-run; no leads on driver

By John R. Ellement
Globe Staff / January 30, 2010

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For the past three years, Peter Politis watched through the window of his Saugus restaurant as his elderly uncle crossed Central Street, a trip he made for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Yesterday, Politis was wracked by grief because his 81-year-old uncle, Christos Agganis, had been struck and killed Thursday by a hit-and-run driver while Politis looked on helplessly.

“He is walking over to get a bite, and I just saw a blur, a blur shoot right through my eyes,’’ Politis said in a telephone interview. “And my uncle is up in the air.’’

Politis said he rushed outside, found his uncle unconscious, and held his hand while waiting for help to arrive. Agganis, a widower with no children, died at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“I just kept calling him Tio, uncle in Greek,’’ Politis said. “The person [driver] didn’t even stop. They just kept on going. It’s hard to believe someone would do that.’’

Yesterday, Saugus police asked for the public’s help in locating the vehicle that struck Agganis as he walked out of his Central Street apartment building located directly across from the Hammersmith Inn that Politis and other relatives own.

Saugus police Lieutenant Leonard Campanella said that Agganis was struck shortly before 5:30 p.m. Police have very little information about the vehicle involved.

“We only have a description of a smaller SUV,’’ said Campanella. “That’s the only thing we have to go on. No color. Nothing. There may be damage on the right side of the vehicle or to the windshield.

“We are asking for the public’s help,’’ he added.

He urged anyone with information to contact police at 781-941-1100. He also asked the driver to contact police and offer his or her perspective on the crash.

Campanella said Agganis was struck as he stepped off the curb. While strong winds buffeted the region Thursday evening, police said the turbulent weather that included some snow had not arrived in Saugus at the time Agganis was struck.

“The snow hadn’t started yet,’’ he said. “We are not convinced that weather was a factor.’’

Politis said Agganis worked as a cook before retiring in his 60s and moved with his wife back to Greece where he lived for about 20 years. About seven years ago, his wife died, he said.

About three years ago, Agganis moved into the apartment building so he could be closer to relatives at the restaurant, as well as other nieces and nephews living in Greater Boston.

Politis said his uncle was a distant relative of Harry Agganis, the late Boston University star athlete from the 1950s who died when he was in his 20s. BU named its indoor arena in his honor.

Christos Agganis was the biological uncle of Politis’s wife, Demetra, who also works in the family-owned restaurant.

Demetra was too overcome to work yesterday, said Politis, who added that regular patrons were feeling the loss of the man they also called Uncle Chris.

“Everyone is sad,’’ Politis said. “We keep looking out the window, expecting him to walk across the street.’’