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16 June, 2024
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Greek millionaire's $2M gift transforms village

How a modest life in Ohio changed a Greek village


In a surprising twist of fate, the legacy of a frugal Greek millionaire, Steven Zonas, unfolded in 1980, revealing a hidden fortune that transformed his native village, Mexiates in Phthiotis, Greece.

As reported by Greek Reporter, Zonas, who passed away at the age of eighty-seven in Cincinnati, left behind nearly $1.6 million in stocks, eventually growing to over two million dollars through dividends and interest. Kostas Christopoulos, president of the Steven Zonas Foundation managing the endowment, disclosed that the village had been benefiting from this unexpected windfall for 33 years.

The manager of Zonas' stocks, a U.S. bank, annually channels profits to Greece, addressing various needs of Mexiates. These include educational and medical necessities, as well as financial assistance for the needy and orphans. The impact has been profound, with more than two and a half million euros ($2.67 million) benefitting the village since 1990.

Christopoulos emphasized the positive changes, noting the construction of schools, kindergartens, and churches. He highlighted the significant contributions to children's education, stating, "Enormous help has been [contributed] to the education of children."

Interestingly, the returns from Zonas' stocks fluctuate based on the performance of the U.S. stock markets. In prosperous times, the village receives up to $180 thousand annually, while in lean periods, returns may drop to just $15 thousand. Despite the variations, the majority of the funds are dedicated to supporting those in need, especially students.

The village's future looks promising, as plans are underway to equip the primary school with projection systems, IT laboratories, music, and sports facilities, aiming to become a model of infrastructure.

Beyond the positive changes, Christopoulos pointed out that Zonas' will played a pivotal role in revitalizing life in the village. The influx of funds significantly reduced immigration to larger cities and abroad in the last few decades.

However, the journey to realize Zonas' will was not without challenges. Cincinnati courts witnessed an eight-year legal battle over the contested will. In August 1987, the 1st Ohio District Court of Appeals ruled that a will purportedly signed by Zonas in Chicago a month before his death was a forgery. The accepted will, drafted in secret during Zonas' visit to Greece in July 1980, revealed Ernie Doland, a former restaurant manager, as the executor.

The story of Steven Zonas unveils not only a tale of unexpected generosity but also a legal saga that surrounded his philanthropic intentions, leaving a lasting impact on Mexiates.

[With information sourced from Greek Reporter]

Cyprus  |  village  |  Greece  |  US  |  millionaire

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