Greek shipowner and World War II veteran, Iakovos Tsounis, passed away on Saturday aged 96.
Tsounis will be buried in the Papagou-Holargos cemetery on Monday, with the honours of a serving major-general.
In an announcement on the national defence ministry’s website on Saturday, National Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said it was a day of mourning for the armed forces.
Tsounis, who stated that he wants to leave life as he began it- barefoot, donated €23 million for the defence of the country and €60 million for landing craft.
Ο νεότερος βετεράνος του Β’ΠΠ, Εθν. Ευεργέτης Υπτγος ε.τ. Ιάκωβος Τσούνης εξέπνευσε σήμερα. Υπήρξε αφοσιωμένος ευπατρίδης, υποστηρικτής των ΕΔ και άξιο Τέκνο της Πατρίδος. Θα λείψει σε όλους μας! Συλλυπούμαι βαθύτατα την οικογένειά του για την απώλεια αυτού του Μοναδικού Έλληνος! pic.twitter.com/w1ZITgQXd7
— GEN Konstantinos Floros (@ChiefHNDGS) April 10, 2021
The President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou who met Tsounis earlier this year, called him “a national benefactor, true patriot and philanthropist.”
On his part, the Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that “Greece bids farewell, today, to a worthy son and we all bow in respect for the memory of true patriot Iakovos Tsounis.”
“A man who served the country from the age of 15 years old, fighting in the Greek-Italian war. Who stood by it, a steadfast and modest benefactor, for decades. And who, shortly before the sunset of his long and creative life, donate the sum of his property to the Armed Forces. The country will be forever grateful to him,” Mitsotakis added.
The family has asked that donations be made in lieu of wreaths to the bank accounts of the Agios Savvas Hospital (Piraeus Bank: 6558107135319) and Floga (Alpha Bank IBAN: GR 8001401120112002002011686 and National Bank of Greece IBAN GR 2501101920000019248000010).
Who is Iakovos Tsounis?
Tsounis was born in June 1924 in Patras, western Greece. When Italy invaded Greece on Oct. 28, 1940, the 16-year-old convinced a colonel billeted in his family’s home to enlist him, even though he was underage.
After leaving the Army in 1949, he obtained a license as an assistant customs broker, filling customs clearance applications in the port of Piraeus for a small fee. Eventually, he got into dismantling ships and selling their parts to the steel industry, while also supplying ships with provisions. One of his clients, Aristotle Onassis, whom he met by chance on the island of Skorpios while supplying provisions for the shipping magnate’s yacht, Christina, convinced him his future lay in shipping.
Starting small in 1960, with a small commercial vessel of 1,000 tons for domestic routes, in less than 10 years he had a fleet of 13 ships, including a 35,000-ton tanker. At the same time, he expanded into the real estate business in Los Angeles, London, Spain and elsewhere.
By 2008, Tsounis, who had already started his charitable activity in the 1960s, had sold his ships.
He had donated large sums to hospitals, churches and museums, among other institutions. But by far his largest contribution has been to Greece’s armed forces, for whom, as a patriot, he always felt deeply.
Tsounis is survived by a son and daughter.