Ernest C. Sunas, 95, died Tuesday following a brief illness. He was born April 9, 1920 in Bronx, NY to Zoe (Leon) and Gus Sunas, and came to Durham at the age of 9. The Sunas family was among the pioneers of Durham’s Greek community. Ernie graduated from Durham High School and began undergraduate studies at age 16 at Duke University, majoring in chemistry. During WWII he entered the US Army Infantry and served in the South Pacific, after which he returned to Durham to finish his undergraduate education at Duke. He later earned a Master’s degree from Duke in chemistry. He spent a lengthy career as a research scientist with Liggett-Myers, beginning in 1954 and retiring in 1987.
Ernie was a devoted parishioner of St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church, where he served on the Parish Council for over 30 years and taught Sunday School for 25 years. With a passion for music implanted in his soul, Ernie began playing the violin at 9 years old. He became an accomplished performer, starting as a student in the Duke Symphony and continuing into adulthood with the Durham Symphony as a founding member, and later returning to the Duke Symphony, playing until age 90. Ernie was also a member of the Village Symphony of Chapel Hill.
Ernie was an avid fisherman and sportsman, playing basketball well into his 60’s and maintaining robust physical condition until his passing. He loved all sports, especially those associated with his beloved Duke Blue Devils. A loveable fellow, Ernie had an innate gift of striking conversation with strangers and connecting with people from all walks. His instinct for fun came through in his delightful sense of humor and harmless teasing. Ernie Sunas was a man of sterling character, perpetually good nature, usual joy, and utterly devoted to his family. He was deeply proud of his Greek heritage, serving in many capacities with AHEPA for well over 60 years.
Surviving are his devoted and loving wife of 66 years, Marian Pantazis Sunas; his children, Thea S. (Mark) Blalock of Marietta, GA and Dean (Lesley) Sunas of Ponte Vedra Beach, FL; his grandchildren, Stacey Blalock, and Alex, Sarah and Luke Sunas; a brother, William (Joanne) Sunas of Chapel Hill; and many beloved nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his sisters, Marie Tsantes and Helen Dennos.
The funeral will be 10:30 AM Monday from the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Barbara with burial following in Woodlawn Cemetery. Friends may visit 3-6 PM Sunday at Hall-Wynne Funeral Service, with the Trisagion litany said at 5:00 PM. Memorials gifts may be made to St. Barbara’s Church Building Fund, 8306 NC 751, Durham 27713.