Jim Tsunis Sr., 94, powerhouse in LI real estate, business circles

Strange things often happened on Jim Tunith’s way. Like running into Cary Grant on the street. Or fix the puncture of a man who turns out to be the chairman of the Suffolk Republican Party. Or you can meet a friend who friends with legendary Yankees pitcher Whitey his Ford.

Dimitrios “Jim” Tsunis Sr., the son of Greek immigrants, combined his fortune and work ethic to make Long Islander a driving force in real estate, business, politics and charity, his family and friends say. I was. Bolstered by his success in the dairy business, he helped found Dowling his College and Nickel’s his restaurant and built several commercial and residential complexes.

his proudest achievement

But his proudest achievement, next to his family, is the Long Island Charity, whose “Tournament of Stars” annual golf classic includes Bob Hope, Yogi Berra and Terri Savalas. , Frankie Avalon, and other celebrities that Tunis is familiar with from the world of entertainment and sports. said the family.

According to family and friends, Tunis said it should be the title of his biography, preferring to say, “I knew them all.”

Tunis of St. James died on Christmas Day. he was 94 years old.

“Jim was a true legend…one of the kindest men I’ve ever met.” Deaf, there are always people, and he was always having a conversation with everyone.”

He was a genuinely humorous storyteller. That’s probably because Brooklyn he had myriad life experiences, from Dodgers batboy to dairy tycoon to Jackie he was an entrepreneur who vacationed and played golf with the likes of Gleason and Savalas.

“It doesn’t cost money to be kind,” Tsunis often told people, emphasizing traits his family and friends believed were key to his relationships.

Dowling history

One of Tunith’s favorite stories is that, in the late 1960s, when he was on the board of trustees of Adelphi University, the university’s Suffolk extension could be named after board members and developers for $2 million. It is a matter of speaking frankly.

Bob Dowling paid.

In another popular story, Tunis stopped a man on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The stranger looked familiar and Tunis asked if he was the Long Islander. It was Hollywood movie legend Cary Grant. After Tunis apologized for failing to recognize him, Grant said: Let’s sit down. According to Tunis’ family, the two spent more than 30 minutes talking in Central Park.

“He was a very bright guy and could strike up a conversation with anyone,” said Jim Tunis Jr., a resident of his father’s Belle Terre.

Born in Brooklyn, Tunis the Elder has been a sports fan since he was a little boy. At the age of 12, he was a batboy for his Dodgers in Brooklyn for the summer and was a future Hall of Famer. In his teens, Tunis caddyed for boxing greats Joe He Lewis and Sugar Ray He Robinson at his country club, Engineers in Rosslyn. He also played competitive baseball in Brooklyn and even got a tryout with the former New York Giants, his family said.

A high school dropout, he lied about his age to enlist in the Marine Corps shortly after World War II ended, and after enlisting went to Guam, China and Pearl Harbor. biography. In a chance encounter, the captain assigning duties to Tunis and other Guam newcomers asked if Tunis’ family ran the Brooklyn restaurant he frequented. It was the Tunis family business. That’s how Corporal Tunis was in charge of the dining room and got his own air-conditioned tent and his own jeep, Zamek said.

After an honorable discharge, Tunis gained experience in restaurants and helped his brother run a rotisserie restaurant in Great Neck. A few years later, along with his family, Tunis opened his event venues, The Bonwit Inn in Commack and The Water Mill in Smithtown.

career launch

Zamek says that when he was just in his 20s, a family friend introduced him to the president of a residential milk delivery company, and he was hired as a salesman. This was a major turning point for Tunis, who in 1955, still in his twenties, climbed the milk career ladder at various companies before Lake bought his Presske’s Dairy in Grove.

On my way to work from Brooklyn, I stopped by to help a motorist with a flat tire — R. Ford Hughes, leader of the Suffolk Republican Party from 1951 to 1959.

Mr. Tsunis accepted his entrance into politics when he was beginning to dream bigger.

He partnered with family and friends in his business ventures, but was particularly close to Yankees Hall of Famer Whitey Ford, who opened the door to the rich and famous. Tunis and Ford launched insurance and real estate ventures, including building the Ford Professional Building, a local landmark for decades at Jefferson Station in Port He. They vacationed and played golf together, including at Jackie Gleason’s Florida home.

But what they found most rewarding, according to family and friends, was the Long Island Charitable Foundation, which raises money for nonprofits. It all started when a trucking business man turned to Tunis for help in fighting cancer when his secretary fell ill. Tunis, Ford, and some friends used their connections to organize his two-day golf extravaganza to get big names like Bob Hope to play.

Jim Tunith Jr. said of his father: “He was such a giver. He worked his whole life to get to a place where he could give.”

Tunith, in his 70s, became the leader of Smithtown’s Conservative party in 2003, until he backed an independent candidate and Suffolk Conservative leader Ed Walsh accused him of being “disloyal”. When I expelled, I was embroiled in a political war. Tunis sued Walsh in 2008, but he eventually joined the Suffolk Independence Party.

“If he likes you, he’s gone astray,” said Zamek.

Along with Jim Tunith Jr., he is survived by son Louis of Port Jefferson, George of Winter Gardens, Fla., daughter Marcia Farrell of St. James and Alexia Zamek of Port Jefferson. Friday, Port Jefferson, Greece A funeral mass was held at the Orthodox Church of the Assumption. He was buried in Port He Jefferson’s Cedar Hill Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, you can donate to the Long Island Charitable Foundation.

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