He told coworkers their gift of naming a $1,000 4-H memorial agriculture scholarship in his honor this past November was surprise enough.
“I requested not to have one (a party) when they gave me a memorial scholarship in my name. That meant a lot to me, and there was no way you could top or beat that,” he said.
Moraitakis said he felt the staff’s appreciation of his contributions in the workplace with the scholarship, and it and it showed him his career has been a success.
“That’s the biggest honor anyone could give me,” he said.
Moraitakis retired after working 17 years as the Gordon County extension agent. Although he announced his retirement last year, he continued working at the Extension Office on a part-time basis.
During his career, Moraitakis worked for the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension System for 31 years on the state and local level serving the Northwest Georgia area. Twenty of those years were at the Gordon County Extension Office.
He began his career in Gordon County as the 4-H program coordinator where he worked with 4-H Club members in agriculture projects and competitions.
For many locals, Moraitakis is “4-H.”
Kurt Sutherland, a former Gordon County 4-H Club member, perhaps said it best.
“He was always an inspiration for me and others, and you could tell he enjoyed his job,” Sutherland said. “I looked up to him. I knew from an early age that one day I wanted to work with the extension office or 4-H.”
Sutherland, a 9-year-old when he first met Moraitakis through 4-H, left home for summer camp terrified — and said it wasn’t a good feeling.
“It was the first time I had been away from home, and Steve made me feel secure and he treated all of the kids like they were his own,” Sutherland recalled.
“Even after I got out of 4-H, he was always the one that I called if I ran into a problem. I ran a farm for 10 years and anytime I had a question he would drop what he was doing and assist or find information for me,” he said, adding that Moraitakis put others before himself.
Sutherland, 41, is now working as Gordon County’s 4-H program assistant and youth livestock coordinator, and said Moraitakis remains a positive influence.
“He’s always happy, always smiling, outgoing and willing to help and pitch in. He can’t tell anyone ‘no,’” he said.
Sutherland said he will be missed, but 4-Hers can expect that he will still be a part of what they do.
Moraitakis promised that he will still be around and involved in youth and farm-related activities and events.
“I plan on being a volunteer,” Moraitakis said.
He mentioned that he hopes that his twin grandsons, Mason and Monte Moraitakis, 10, will follow in his footsteps and be a part of 4-H — a program that was the heart of his career.
For 30 years, Moraitakis wrote a weekly column for the Catoosa County News and the Calhoun Times on topics ranging from mosquitoes to recycling Christmas trees.
Area farmers agree that several organizations in Gordon County have benefited from his leadership, including the Gordon County Chamber of Commerce agricultural business community and Red Carpet Cattlemen’s Association of Gordon County.
Wes Mitchell, who is the current president of the Red Carpet Cattlemen’s Association of Gordon County, has only lived here for four years, but said in the short time he has known Moraitakis he has seen that he’s a natural leader.
“Steve is a great guy and he’s always been real helpful and he’s helped me with some questions that I’ve had. He’s always been real involved with the youth,” Mitchell said.
Moraitakis is a 1976 graduate of University of Georgia, where he earned a bachelor’s Degree in animal science. He completed a master’s degree in 1993 through what is now the University of West Georgia.
One accomplishment Moraitakis said he is most proud of is being able to change the stereotype of farmers.
“A lot of these farmers are intelligent. Some industry people put farmers down, but a farmer is a vet, nutritionist, agronomist and knows how to fight off insects and disease,” he said. “Agriculture is the basis of everything and farmers should be highly respected.”
Since retirement, Moraitakis said he has spent more time completing honey do lists and riding bicycles with his twin grandsons.
“We like going over to Berry and riding on the Silver Comet Trail,” Moraitakis said.
He plans on taking the twins and the rest of his family to Dollywood this summer.
Moraitakis said he will miss helping others.
“Problem solving is what I’ll miss. When people call and have a problem and I can help find a solution or find a way to give them information,” he said.
Greg Bowman will work one day a week as Gordon County’s extension agent for three months until a full-time employee is hired, Moraitakis said.