The Rev. John A. Zunes of Chapel Hill died on October 25 at a residential care facility in Cary after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. Funeral services will be held at 2:00pm on Monday, December 8, at Chapel of the Cross.
Born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1927, he received a B.S. from Virginia Tech in 1950 before earning his M.Div. at Duke University and being ordained as an Episcopal priest following study at Virginia Seminary.
Rev. Zunes served as rector for churches in Coolemee and Rockingham before joining the faculty of Tougaloo College in Mississippi, where he supported African-American student activists in the civil rights struggle. He returned to North Carolina in 1962 to begin graduate study in Physics at UNC.
He served as educational supervisor for the Morehead Planetarium between 1968 and 1974, leading educational programs for school groups and training the Apollo astronauts in celestial navigation.
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For the subsequent twenty years until his retirement, he taught Physics at Durham Tech, where he was a popular instructor and served as president of the faculty senate.
Rev. Zunes was a priest associate at Chapel of the Cross and filled in for vacationing clergy throughout the diocese, noting how his knowledge of physics and astronomy only strengthened his belief in God.
A veteran of the US Army Air Corps, he later became a committed pacifist and was a familiar figure among Chapel Hill activists. He was a founder and regular participant in the weekly peace vigils against the Vietnam War and subsequent U.S. military interventions, and was active in causes ranging from nuclear disarmament to Palestinian rights.
His wife Helen Karnes Zunes died in 2003. They greatly enjoyed traveling and camping, particularly in national parks and other areas of natural beauty, visiting every state in the contiguous United States.
He is survived by his son, Stephen Zunes, and daughter-in-law, Nanlouise Wolfe, of Santa Cruz, California, and three grandchildren: Shanti, Kalila, and Tobin Zunes-Wolfe. His daughter, Mary Helen Zunes, died as an infant in 1963.
Donations can be sent to Church World Service.