2002-01-23 / Seniors

Award Caps Volunteer Life

Cleo P. Tsounis and her husband, George, at the late 2001 function at which Cleo was honored as Mother of the Year.Cleo P. Tsounis and her husband, George, at the late 2001 function at which Cleo was honored as Mother of the Year.

Cleo P. Tsounis (l.) was honored by the Southold, Long Island, community as Mother of the Year late last year. The honor was the third time Tsounis was recognized for her achievements in the North Fork area. She was a pioneer in establishing the Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church of nearby Mattituck, Long Island, and as the first woman president of its parish council, helped raise $200,000 so that the church, leveled by fire in 1984, could be rebuilt unencumbered by a mortgage. August 19, 1989 was proclaimed 'Cleo P. Tsounis Day" in Suffolk County by County Executive Patrick Halprin; Tsounis was again honored in 1997.

Tsounis was born in 1923 to Greek Orthodox refugees from Asia Minor and raised in tenements on the east side of Manhattan. After the Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 she volunteered as an air raid warden and then found a job as a precision machinist in a defense plant. She married George Tsounis, a decorated World War II combat veteran and prisoner of war, in 1947.

Tsounis gave birth to four children, Catherine, Christopher, Nicholas and Thomas, all graduates of the City University of New York. After she bought a typewriter and taught herself to type she began volunteering with St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Astoria during the 1950s and was one of the founders of the St. Demetrios parochial school in 1957. She was unanimously elected president of the school's Parent-Teacher Association for three years.

On a family excursion during the early 1960s she discovered the North Fork of Long Island and bought a vacation cottage in Mattituck in 1961. She was a pioneer in the Greek Orthodox community of eastern Long Island and for more than 28 years served as Transfiguration church secretary, computerized church records and aided in the founding of its Hellenic culture and Sunday Schools, Philoptohos and youth groups.

—Catherine T. Siolas

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