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Greek Shipowner Who Donated His Wealth to the Armed Forces Dies at 97

Iakovos Tsounis
Iakovos Tsounis at the PResidential Mansion in Athens. Credit: Presidency GR / Twitter

Iakovos Tsounis, a Greek shipowner and World War II veteran, died on Saturday at the age of 97.

Earlier this year, Tsounis had donated 23 million euros and 60 landing craft to the Greek armed forces, declaring that he wants to leave life as he began it — barefoot.

The President of the Hellenic Republic issued a statement after the news of his passing.

”A national benefactor, a true patriot and philanthropist, Iakovos Tsounis, with his ethos and great contribution especially to the Armed Forces, leaves a great legacy in the country. His loss causes grief to all Greeks. We say goodbye to him with gratitude,” the Greek President stated.

During a ceremony at the Greek Ministry of Defense in February, the great benefactor said he wants to donate everything he owns to the “Saints”, as he calls the armed forces.

Tsounis’ donations to Greece’s defense 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 in Kastelorizo, located just off the Turkish coast.

For his contribution in April of 2020 he was awarded by Presidential Decree the status of Reserve Officer, with the rank of Lieutenant General, with honor.

Alternate Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis thanked Tsounis, calling him “a loyal, consistent contributor of the Greek Armed Forces throughout his life” and said the state must recognize his long-term contributions.

“The youngest volunteer WWII veteran,” as ruling New Democracy parliament group representative Christos Boukoros said, “has astounded us by his move to donate his entire fortune to the Armed Forces while still alive, and gives us optimism at a time where the greater region of the Mediterranean is seeing a lot of turbulence.”

Other deputies also acknowledged the unique gift.

Iakovos Tsounis Fought in WWII as a sixteen-year-old

Tsounis, a descendant of the heroes of the revolution of 1821, is a successful businessman – shipowner.

Born in Patras, he fought at the age of 16 in the Greek-Italian war of 1940.

He started as a customs officer in Piraeus. In 1966 he entered the shipping world as a shipowner, acquiring a total of 13 merchant ships and creating a large fortune over time.

Since then, his great charitable activity has been the focus of his life. He also created the Museum, which is located next to his permanent residence on Kyprou Street, in Papagou.

Greek benefactors

Tsounis is following the steps of several benefactors that shaped modern Greece.

Men and women who contributed massively to the birth of the modern state after the fighting heroes kicked out the Ottomans — to the point that one can safely say that their contribution in times of peace was equal — if not greater — to that of the warriors.

These men were industrialists, shipping magnates, rich aristocrats, who built the Greek economy and helped a poor nation prosper. Their names are still alive in the foundations and institutions they left behind.

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