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Vivian (Asimos) Gunnels

1931 - 2019
Vivian Asimos Gunnels passed away on October 17, 2019 in her residence in Clovis, N.M. Born on June 23, 1931 in Athens, Greece she led a successful and adventurous life that initially brought her to the United States in 1945 aboard the U.S.S. Griffholm, the first passenger ship leaving Europe with US citizens after World War II.
Born in Athens, her father traveled to the United States before the onset of World War II to find a new life for his family. Vivian, her mother Kate (Katina) and two brothers Bill (Basile) and Jim (Demitrios) sought refuge in the rural village of Amfissa, close to Delphi, at the outset of the war. As a young girl, Vivian carried food and hidden messages to resistance fighters in the hills above Amfissa while Nazi officers were quartered in the family's home with her extended family. Subsequently, Vivian's younger brother Bill was abducted by the Nazis and taken to a work camp, to later be released with the intervention of the local Orthodox bishop. At the close of the war, US passports arrived for Kate and her three children to be reunited with Tom Asimos, now a resident of Clovis and the proprietor of the Bus Terminal Coffee Shop. After the trans-Atlantic voyage, Vivian met her father in New York City after a six-year separation to begin her life in America. The family crossed the country by train before arriving home in Eastern New Mexico. She was 14 years of age at the time.
The young family helped their father run the restaurant that served meals to passengers and locals alike. Vivian, Bill and Jim started in the Clovis schools and quickly adapted to life in New Mexico. After only three years in Clovis, Vivian's father unexpectedly died and left the family business to his widow. Without a working knowledge of English, Kate Asimos successfully ran the restaurant with the help of her children, now of high school age.
Vivian and her younger brothers, whom she adored, excelled in their new language, academics and sports. They were involved in the daily operations of the restaurant and ultimately all three of them used their challenging upbringings to become highly educated and successful business people leading their own careers with vigor and acclaim.
It was in her time at Clovis High School that she met the love of her life, Gerald "Shorty" Gunnels of Clovis whom was visiting home from college. They eloped on Vivian's 18th birthday and led a remarkable 65-year marriage together that took them to live in Santa Fe and Fredricksburg, TX before returning to Clovis. They traveled around the world on exotic trips with the Gerald Gunnels' employer, Southland Life Insurance Company of Dallas; such as China, South America, Canada, the Caribbean and all over Europe. Gunnels had her first two children, Thomas and Kathy in the early 1950s and her third, Nike in 1963. An extremely loving mother, she always encouraged her children to attain and experience life at its best. She gave them all the necessary tools to succeed with a grounded upbringing, constant support and motherly advice throughout her life.
Gunnels initially attended the University of New Mexico out of high school but ended up earning her degree in Business and Art Education later in life from Eastern New Mexico University. She was known from a young age in Clovis for her sales acumen where she initially worked at Woolworth and Queens & Teens clothing stores on Main Street. She then was hired to acquire new business for First National Bank of Clovis, now New Mexico Bank & Trust. Thereafter, she acquired a solo contract with Southland Life Insurance Company and through hard work and determination became one of the company's first successful woman agents. She was the first woman in the company to earn the industry's coveted Million Dollar Round Table status and was touted nationally by Southland Life as an example of a woman excelling in a male-dominated arena. Gunnels, and women like her, broke serious barriers that ultimately helped lead our country to accept and encourage women into professional positions as male equals. She lobbied the N.M. Legislature on behalf of the New Mexico insurance industry and was involved in insurance trade associations. Gunnels mentored other women who wanted to join the professional workforce but didn't know how to take the first steps. Even after her retirement, she negotiated easy rental agreements at her commercial property on Prince Street in order to encourage young people starting out to have an easier chance at entrepreneurial success.
As an avid acrylic painter, many friends, family and patrons own pieces of Gunnels' works that usually focused on the colorful seaports and villages of Europe – places close to her heart. For those who knew Vivian, she will be remembered for her exotic lifelong beauty, quick wit, plain-spoken and sometimes spicy nature and consummate "good sport" demeanor. She loved life and enjoyed getting up everyday to see where it took her. She loved elegant, colorful clothing and unusual cuisine from all over the world.
She is survived by her three children; Thomas of Edgewood, NM; Kathy Willingham of Jackson, MS (Tom) and Nike Kern of Clovis (John). Grandchildren include Keaton Gunnels, Marika Cackett and Alexandra Kern and many nieces and nephews whom she adored including Karen Campbell Asimos, Vicki Bouse, Brenda Bouse, Eric Asimos, Adrienne Asimos, Gifford Asimos, Tom Asimos, Nick Asimos and her sister-in-law, Dorothy Bouse and several grand nieces and nephews whom she was close. She has one living cousin in Greece, George Trigas and his four sons.
Gunnels had a strong Christian faith and always held steady that God was ultimately in control of one's life. She encouraged her children to live a life of faith and live in the Word. She is now surrounded by his eternal comfort and love. A life-long member of the Greek Orthodox Church, she attended St. James Episcopal Church where she worshiped with her family. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made on her behalf to St. James Episcopal Church, 1117 N. Main Street, Clovis, NM.
Published in the Eastern New Mexico News on Nov. 10, 2019
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