The Heart and Vascular Institute was deeply impacted by the loss of two philanthropic partners in 2016. Louis Grasmick, founder and CEO of the Louis J. Grasmick Lumber Co. and philanthropist, died at age 91. His friend, business associate and former neighbor, John Paterakis Sr., longtime leader of H&S Bakery and a Baltimore city developer and philanthropist, also passed away at age 87.
“It’s difficult to overstate the importance of their support,” says Gordon Tomaselli, director of Johns Hopkins’ Division of Cardiology and co-director of the Heart and Vascular Institute. “They did a lot for Johns Hopkins and for the community.”
Grasmick’s connection to Johns Hopkins dated back several decades, from when he had a bypass surgery by cardiac surgeon Vincent Gott, says Nancy Grasmick, Lou’s wife of 31 years. “They became good friends, and it made indelible in his mind the quality of Johns Hopkins and the cardiac department,” she says.
Over the years, Grasmick underwent additional procedures, including a second bypass operation, stent placements and catheterizations. Along the way, he became passionate about supporting the Heart and Vascular Institute and its patients.
Grasmick served on the Cardiovascular Advisory Council, as chair of the Dana and Albert “Cubby” Broccoli Center for Aortic Diseases, and as president of the Johns Hopkins Cardiac Alumni Club. He also chaired a capital campaign for the Heart and Vascular Institute. The Grasmicks made two $1 million gifts in two years to the institute.
He also visited cardiac surgery patients in the hospital as a point of encouragement and referred dozens of cardiology patients to Johns Hopkins. “People used to laugh and say, ‘Lou’s the greatest referral source to Hopkins for cardiac issues,’” Nancy says.
One of Grasmick’s referred colleagues was Paterakis. Because of their connections as neighbors in Timonium and being active in the city and state political scene, Paterakis had been actively involved in the Broccoli Center and worked with Grasmick on James Bond movie premiere fundraisers to support it. Then, when Paterakis needed open-heart surgery, he came to Johns Hopkins.
Paterakis’ prognosis wasn’t good for a quadruple bypass operation or a later emergency stent surgery, says his daughter, Vanessa Paterakis Smith, but he pulled through. “He actually had 12 more years because of Johns Hopkins. Because of all that Hopkins had done for my father, he felt like he wanted to give back,” she says.
For the past three years, Paterakis had been treated for amyloid deposits in his heart by cardiologist Daniel Judge, who suggested a medication without which “I don’t think he would have lived the last three years,” says Smith. The Paterakis family became a donor to Judge’s research.
Support from people like Grasmick and Paterakis is the “lifeblood” for programs like the Heart and Vascular Institute, Tomaselli says. It helps fund investigational research that can attract larger federal grants, launch careers for young faculty members and support new clinical programs.
“It’s ironic that John died so soon after Lou,” Nancy says. “Both were highly successful businesspeople, but they always had a philosophy of giving back. They cared about our city and our state, and they used their success for good. Johns Hopkins was very much a centerpiece of that. I want that legacy to live on.” She is planning another gift to the institute from her late husband’s estate.