Heartbreaking. Nia Vardalos recalled not being able to travel to Canada for her late father’s funeral due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The My Big Fat Greek Wedding star, 57, could not go after her dad, Gus Vardalos, was hospitalized. Therefore, she did not get to see him in person again or attend his funeral. “They held up the phone to him and I got to thank him for an incredible life and tell him he was a gentleman and he was a great dad,” she told Variety in an interview published on Friday, March 20. “My mom held his hand and said, ‘It’s OK for you to go.’”
Gus died on March 12 at age 87. A service was held at a church in Canada and livestreamed for those who could not make it. Nia expressed gratitude for the way things worked out, however. “I always said my dad has impeccable timing,” she noted. “If he had gone 14 days ago when they weren’t acknowledging the global threat, we all would have gathered and it could have brought down the city and also we would have gone back to all our communities and could have spread something. He waited until the church said they couldn’t have any more large gatherings. I think my father knew he was keeping people safe.”
Nia last saw her dad while celebrating Christmas with her family in Winnipeg, Canada. “It was like watching your favorite wind-up toy slowly losing its batteries over the last year,” she recounted of his health problems. “At Christmas we were all there. He was on the couch, happy and mobile. He wasn’t incapacitated but not quite running a marathon. … I had a feeling this might be it.”
She added of her farewell with Gus before departing Canada: “There was a moment that flashed between my dad and me when we said goodbye. … I think he was saying, ‘This really is goodbye.’”
The actress is now raising money for not-for-profits in honor of her father’s memory. Her friends Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson — who tested positive for coronavirus earlier this month — donated to Gus’ former church in an effort to help the elderly amid the outbreak.
“People in our industry, we’re fortunate, we’re privileged, we’re pampered and some of us want to use our voices to do something,” Nia explained. “That’s why I decided to go online and find different organizations. We have to do some good or we’re going to go nuts.”
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