Demetrios K. Tsigas Falls Asleep in the Lord
Demetrios K. Tsigas, 59, of Melbourne, FL was called to the Lord on Wednesday, November 25, 2020, from complications related to his three-year struggle with lung cancer that metastasized to his brain. Father Demetri is survived by his wife of 26 years, Eleni (Zuras), his sons Jordan and Jonathan, his parents Fr. Konstantine and Presvytera Spiridoula Tsigas, his sisters, Vasiliki Fotinis and Katerina Papaioanou, and their husbands, Panayiotis and George, and nieces and nephews Spyridoula, Emmanuel, Anastasia, Konstantina, and Theofania. He also leaves behind father- and mother-in-law Peter and JoAnn Zuras, brother- and sister-in-law Bill and Stephanie Kutson, and their children Constantine, Peter and Catherine, and brother-and sister-in-law Dean and Katja Zuras, and their children Melina and Nicholas. As well, dozens of aunts, uncles, and cousins in Greece and America mourn his loss.
He is preceded in death by his daughter Nikonia Evangelia, and a brother John.
Demetri was born on December 12, 1960 in Patras, Greece. In 1962 the family emigrated to the United States, ultimately settling in Succasunna, New Jersey, where his father, a priest, and mother started St. Andrew Greek Orthodox Church and ministered to that community for 43 years. He attended Roxbury High School, went on to graduate from Rutgers University with a double major in Biology and Psychology. After a year of graduate work, he felt a calling to the Holy Priesthood, leading him to Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary in Brookline, Massachusetts. After graduating with his Masters of Divinity degree in 1987, he spent 8 years serving as a youth director. First for the Diocese of New Jersey and then for the Greek Orthodox communities in Piscataway, NJ, Norfolk, VA, and Broomall, PA.
He met and married Eleni Zuras in Bethesda, Maryland in 1994. In 1995 they were invited by his former classmate, Fr. James Retelas, to serve Holy Trinity in Portland, Oregon. Later that year, he became ordained as a deacon at his hometown parish of St. Andrews, and then on July 5th, ordained to the priesthood, faithfully serving the Holy Trinity community until 2002 as the associate priest. He was then transferred to St. Gregory of Nyssa in El Cajon, California where he shepherded the small but faithful flock for four years. Ready to move “back East” to be closer to family, he and Eleni and their two young boys – born in 1999 and 2002 – packed up an RV and enjoyed a cross country tour as they headed to Florida. On December 1, 2006, he began his ministry at St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church in Melbourne, Florida.
Fr. Demetri preached forgiveness and healing. Even his business cards reminded all who met him: “God is Love. We are created in God’s Image. We were created to love!” Important lessons in history and a potluck menu that always included his own healthy contribution were hallmarks of his community Bible studies. Many catechumens came to the faith through his church tours, teaching Liturgies, and personal mentoring. Proud accomplishments included a new education building, expansion of the church’s footprint, and the creation and purchase of the Greek Orthodox section at Florida Memorial Gardens. Hundreds of families experienced him through the 85 baptisms, 30 marriages, and 109 funerals that he celebrated in his 14 years in Melbourne.
In addition to lovingly serving as the pastor and priest of St. Katherine’s, he also pursued ecumenical relationships throughout Brevard County, notably with the church’s Jewish neighbors at Temple Beth Sholom, on the Board of the Salvation Army, and as President of the South Brevard Ministerial Association for three years, where he was loved, accepted, and embraced by everyone there. He lived his sermons, believing everybody to comprise the body of Christ and thus worthy of our love and unity. He was frequently invited to deliver the invocation at various Brevard County events.
However, none of this clerical description truly explains the man. He was generous and genuinely caring, even with total strangers. He had a passion for coffee, wine, music, Star Trek, and working out. He had an equally strong compassion for the underdog. Even the cheesiest movie moved him to tears if it lifted up the weak, the oppressed, and celebrated the love of God. Reflecting the hospitality and “philoxenia” (friend of strangers) that defines the Tsigas family, he made – and kept – friends everywhere he went. Everybody knew what his hobbies and values were because he shared them and expressed them with abandon. He took his illness on with humor, faith, discipline and an unwavering desire to ensure that even this battle would “glorify God.” With every new diagnosis, he reported to his congregation, “God has blessed me again.”
Fr. Demetri was a man who personified love in his very being, who walked his talk, and who marched to his own drumbeat, at any cost.
Eager to speak the truth and engage people who he felt needed his lessons, he did not pull his punches. His teaching styles were fun and engaging, but also could be confrontational when necessary. He proudly kept his card-carrying status as a former punk rocker who had Ultimate Frisbee skills, an abiding love for the youth, and an idealist’s vision of how we could heal our country.
Most especially, he loved and greatly respected his wife, adored and was proud of his sons, never ever forgot his daughter, and made a conscious effort to spend time and be present with his family, even while serving the needs of his flock.
Visitation hours will be held at St. Katherine’s Greek Orthodox Church on North Wickham Road on Tuesday, December 1 from 2-4 pm and 6-8 pm. The funeral will be held Wednesday, Dec. 2 at 12 noon, following a Divine Liturgy at 10 am. Interment will be at Florida Memorial Gardens. More information is available at www.saint-katherine.org.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to causes and projects that Fr. Demetri was particularly passionate about and invested in: St. Katherine’s Cemetery Chapel Fund and the Preeclampsia Foundation.