Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou honored the Greek shipowner and World War II veteran who earlier this month willed his entire estate to the Greek armed forces on Wednesday.
In a ceremony at the Presidential Mansion, Sakellaropoulou expressed her gratitude to 97-year-old Iakovos Tsounis and awarded him with the Grand Cross of the Order of Honor, one of the most prestigious of all Greek honors.
“I honor the patriot who was distinguished for his contribution to the homeland since his adolescence, when at the age of sixteen he enlisted as a volunteer in the Greek army and fought on the Albanian front,” the President said.
Sakellaropoulou added that Tsounis is a “real businessman who did not rest on his laurels… He put himself at the service of those in need, strengthening the work of associations and institutions.”
Custodian of Greek cultural heritage
Sakellaropoulou described Tsounis as a “custodian of our cultural heritage, an active collector of national and ecclesiastical relics, which he offered to his compatriots, creating the Museum that bears his name in the city of Aegio.”
But above all, the Greek President said, he is a national benefactor who “significantly strengthened the Armed Forces, and intends to bequeath to them all of his real estate.
“This act is deeply patriotic and exemplary for all Greeks.”
Tsounis enlisted at 16 in the Greek Army
Tsounis was born near Patras, western Greece, in 1924. He was the 13th child in the family and a descendant of warriors who fought in the 1821 Greek revolution.
At the tender age of sixteen he enlisted in the Greek Army and went directly to the front line in the mountains of Albania during the Greek-Italian War of 1940.
Tsounis is the youngest internationally-recognized veteran of the anti-Nazi and anti-fascist war. His participation in World War II has also been recognized by all Greek governments that have been in power over the decades.
After completing his studies, he worked in the areas of customs clearance, importing and exporting, and ship demolition. He is a graduate of the Hamilton Institute in New York.
In 1966 he threw his hat into the arena of merchant shipping, eventually acquiring a fleet of 13 ships.
Tsounis also became an unpaid consultant on shipping to the Governor of the National Bank of Greece.
He has served as President of the Hellenic Studies Foundation in Great Britain, Vice President of the Information Committee on National Affairs and Law, and Vice President of the Athenian Club as well as a co-founder of several different institutions and medical companies.
Tsounis is also the founder of the “Iakovos Tsounis” Museum, which he donated to the Holy Diocese of Kalavrita and Aigialeia and is currently based in Aigio.
Benefactor to the armed forces since the 1950s
The museum stores and displays his important collection of objects from the 17th century, all of which have special national and ecclesiastical importance.
Tsounis has also notably donated to Greece’s defense since the 1950s.
His donations have included state-of-the-art night vision cameras, spare parts for armored vehicles based at units on Evros, the renovation of entire units at the military hospital in Athens and the restoration of a historic church on the island of Kastelorizo, located just off the Turkish coast.
During the last six decades he has donated approximately 23,000,000 euros to Greece’s defense.
As a final act of love and support for the Armed Forces, Tsounis decided to bequeath his entire estate to them upon his death.