MELBOURNE, FL – Fr. Demetrios K. Tsigas, 59, of Melbourne, FL was called to the Lord on November 25, having passed away 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. Dozens of aunts, uncles, and cousins in Greece and America mourn his loss as well.
He was preceded in death by his daughter Nikonia Evangelia, and a brother, John.
Fr. 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, and 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 School of Theology in Brookline, MA. After graduating with his Masters of Divinity degree in 1987, he spent eight 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 was 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, CA, 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. 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.