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submitted by Saint George Leader on 21.10.2013

Soprano Helen Zerefos hailed for charitable work

By Murray Trembath

St George Leader. July 13, 2012

It has been an amazing journey for performer Helen Zerefos.

As a teenager in the 1960s, she worked in her parents' Sylvania hamburger shop, now known as Paul's Famous Hamburgers, while singing on TV.

Today, the coloratura soprano, who still lives in that suburb, continues a hectic schedule of performances, many of them to raise funds for charity.

The NSW Parliament became the latest body to recognise her contribution to the community, with an award presented by parliamentary secretary to the Premier, Marie Ficarra, at Parliament House on Friday.

A motion moved in the upper house, and recorded in Hansard as a permanent record, paid tribute to her "decades of excellence in Australia and internationally as a performer and her continuing devotion to charitable organisations".

The commendation noted her role as patron of Professor Tony Broe's Ageing Research Centre at NeuroScience Research Australia in Randwick, where research into Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease is conducted.

Ms Zerefos, whose earlier honours included an OAM in 1996, made her first appearance on TV in 1961, but even as her "showbiz" career developed, continued to work in the hamburger shop.

"It was named after my father Paul, but it was really my mother's idea," she said.

"My father wanted it to be just a big mini market, but my mother told the builders to include a lunch bar."

Do you remember Helen in the hamburger shop?

[Maria's father was Paul Zerefos from Neapoli. Her mother was Katina Andronicos from Avlemonas.]

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