LAFAYETTE, LA – Greek-American Jimmie Pete Menutis, World War II veteran, artist, businessman, and staple of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church’s annual Festival in New Orleans, passed away on May 8 at his home in Lafayette, Nola.com reported. He was 95.
Ginny Zissis, the New Orleans Greek Festival’s longtime chairwoman, said of the former nightclub owner and businessman, “He had a razzle-dazzle to him, and a natural flair. He had that beautiful white hair, and he made all the ladies smile. He knew how to entertain and make us all feel that we’re going to have fun together,” Nola reported.
Menutis “was an active supporter of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, where the festival is held, and he bought a vast blue-and-white tent,” Nola reported, adding that the “colors of the Greek flag, ‘really started bringing a lot of attention to the festival,’ Zissis said, ‘because everyone could see it from the bayou.’”
Zissis told Nola that Menutis “had been suffering from pneumonia,” before his death.
A Houston-native, Menutis was the youngest son of Greek immigrants Pete and Mary Menutis who were among the early founders of the Greek Orthodox Church in Houston.
Menutis from a young age demonstrated his artistic talent. While still in his teens, Menutis had some of his sketches published in The Houston Chronicle, Nola reported.
During World War II, Menutis served in the Army as a war correspondent and was posted to the China-Burma-India Theater, Nola reported, adding that “his artwork and articles appeared in Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper.”
When Menutis returned home, he studied art at the University of Houston and worked part-time as an usher in theaters owned by the Interstate Theaters chain.
Following college, Menutis “took over one of those movie houses – the Wayside – and turned it into a music club that brought in a host of jazz and rock ’n’ roll stars, including Louis Armstrong, Little Richard, Fats Domino, and Jerry Lee Lewis,” Nola reported, adding that “the club, which boasted a larger-than-life likeness of a saxophone player atop the marquee, bore his name, with one small variation: The first name of the club was ‘Jimmy’ instead of ‘Jimmie.’”
Although the club closed in the mid-1960s, The Pecan Park Eagle, a local newspaper, reported that “it was one ‘cool and crazy’ ride,” Nola noted.
Menutis moved to New Orleans, Zissis told Nola, where he owned property and operated several businesses in the French Quarter, including Jimmie’s Coney Island, a restaurant on Royal Street.
Menutis was active at Holy Trinity Church, serving as parish council president and as leader of the local AHEPA chapter. In 2005, Menutis moved to Lafayette.
He is survived by his wife, Ruth Ann Menutis, to whom he was married for sixty years; a son, Dimitri Menutis of New Orleans; a daughter, Jamie Menutis Smith of New Orleans; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, Pete and Mary Menutis; his four siblings, Edward, George, Sophie and Beulah Menutis, of Houston, TX, and his daughter, Marika Menutis-Marcello.
A private funeral service, due to the restrictions during the current COVID-19 pandemic, was held on May 12 in Fountain Memorial Cemetery in Lafayette. Fountain Memorial Funeral Home of Lafayette was in charge of arrangements.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Jimmie Menutis’ name to Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, by mail at 1200 Robert E. Lee Blvd., New Orleans, LA, 70122 or by phone at 504-282-0259.