TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. — Away from the Sponge Docks and downtown, nestled in a neighborhood, believers will tell you there is a special place sparking miracles.
For decades, her daughter Goldie Parr was then the caretaker for the shine. She passed away last year.
“I’ve taken over as a third-generation," Dan Tagarelli said.
Tagarelli told Tarpon native and I-Team Investigator Kylie McGivern the story of how the shrine came to be.
The Story of St. Michael's Shrine
In the 1930s, Mary's 11-year-old son, Steve Tsalichis, was "basically on his death bed, he had a huge tumor in the back of his head," Tagarelli said.
One of the nights he was in a hospital in Tampa, Tagarelli said Steve told his mother to bring the icon of St. Michael to him to lay on his chest.
The icon -- is another key part of the family's story.
Steve's father was a sponge diver. One night, Tagarelli said he was leaving Tarpon to go sponge diving off the coast when he got stuck on a sandbar. A storm was coming.
"He started worrying, if the storm hits the sponge boat, it’ll fall apart, they’ll die. So he started praying to St. Michael. He says, 'Get me back safe, I’ll send an offering to Symi, Greece, where the icon is from.' So he gets off the sandbar, he makes it back to Tarpon, gives my grandma $300, he says go take this to the priest in Symi, Greece, the church over there. So she goes, she takes her four kids, my aunt and uncles, and they go to Greece. She gives them $300, he gives her that icon," Taharelli said. "That icon then was over 400 years old."
Mary brought the icon of St. Michael home to Tarpon Springs, and later it was brought to her son in the hospital.
"She’s listening to him mumbling, and he’s having a dream with St. Michael. The dream was, he brought him here to this property, which was empty, there was nothing but dirt here," Tagarelli said, standing at 113 Hope Street. "He said, 'promise me you’ll build a church here in my name and tomorrow morning at 10:00 you’ll take two steps and you’ll be well.'"
The next morning, Steve woke up to his mother sitting next to him.
"He said, 'Mom, we promised that we’ll build the shrine, I’m well.' So the doctor came walking in and the doctor said, 'Steve, what are you doing up?' He said, 'Doc, I’m well.' So they did a scan on his brain, the tumor was totally gone," Tagarelli said.
Dan's First Miracle
Tagarelli says it is an honor to witness how St. Michael has helped countless others, from different faiths and backgrounds, in the decades since.
“They come from all over the United States, I’m conversing now with a lady from Ethiopia," Tagarelli said.
His mother would save stories and add them to a book, brimming with written letters, cards, pictures and newspaper clippings over the years.
Others, hold the stories in their hearts.
A Husband's Message
Loretta Christopoul's husband of 56 years died five years ago.
"Prior to that, there are services here every Wednesday night and John was here to cut the bread and just be here," she said.
Coming to the shrine, Christopoul says, brings her comfort. But one year, a stranger brought her an unexpected message.
“She had a dream the night before, that this man in a gray suit came to her and asked her to please come to St. Michael’s."
Christopoul said she learned the woman had been to the shrine before but wasn't planning to make the 4+ hour drive from her home in Boca Raton.
"She woke up, she was restless, these were her words. She went back to sleep, she had the same dream about this man in a gray suit. She got up in the morning, called her friend, and said we’re going to Tarpon today," Christopoul recalled.
"When she walked through the door, according to the lady that was here, she went to get a candle and the first thing she did was turn around and said, ‘That’s him.' Which of course was my husband.”
Christopoul says she took it as a sign.
"They’re out there. People, your past people are there and they want you to know that. I guess that was his way," she said with a smile.
As for Steve, the little boy who started it all?
He lived to be 78 years old.
“I guess it was just a work of God," his daughter Tula Manglis told ABC Action News.
Manglis remembers growing up hearing stories from her grandmother, Mary.
"Someone coming in and praying, they had trouble with their legs, and they put the crutches in the corner of the alter and they walked out of here," Manglis said.
Some may call it a coincidence, others call it luck, and then there are those who call it a belief in something bigger.
“No matter what age you are, no matter what denomination, you just feel peace when you walk in the door of the shrine," Manglis said. "You feel like there's some type of presence with God."