Mr. Joseph C. 'Joe' Lazaro, Jr., of Waltham, died Wednesday, December 25, 2013 in his home. He was 95.
Joe was born in Waltham on January 8, 1918, a son of Sicilian natives Joseph and Josephine (Ferrara) Lazaro, and had been a lifelong resident. A graduate of Waltham High School, he worked as a truck driver before joining the United States Army shortly after the outbreak of World War II.
In August, 1942 Joe's unit, the 109th Combat Engineer Battalion, shipped out to England where they trained to become part of General George S. Patton's North Africa Corps. It was in England that Joe met his future bride, Edna L. Basnett, of Whiston, Lancashire. After a whirlwind courtship the pair parted company when Joe's unit left for Tunisia.
After fighting in battles at Salerno, Naples, Foggia, Rome and the Po Valley, tragedy struck on September 8, 1944 when Joe was blinded by an exploding mine near the city of Florence. He was treated at military hospitals in Italy and aboard ships before being sent back to the United States to recover at various Army hospitals on the East coast.
In addition to several medals awarded to him and to his unit Joe received the Purple Heart Medal.
During his recovery, Joe summoned the courage to write Edna with the sad news of his devastating injury and to release her from the plans they'd made to marry after the war. Not to be outdone in the courage department, and proving that love is blind too, Edna persevered and enlisted the aid of Eleanor Roosevelt to prevail upon the State Department to cut through the red tape and issue her a visa for travel to the United States. After Joe's period of recovery and training at the Old Farms Convalescent Hospital in Avon, Connecticut, run by Boston's Father Thomas J. Carroll, Joe was discharged from the Army's Valley Forge General Hospital in Pennsylvania on April 12, 1946.
Less than three weeks later, on April 30, 1946, Joe and Edna, who he affectionately called 'Skip', were married in Waltham. The couple settled in the city to raise their family and have been residents since.
Joe worked for a number of years as a salvage technician for the Raytheon Company in Waltham but his true passion was golf. He learned the sport as a teenage caddy by watching other golfers swing and it was his love for the game that led him to become a championship golfer. Joe played in his first United States Blind Golf Association championship in 1950 and competed in well over fifty USBGA championship matches during his illustrious career. He was a seven-time National Champion and holds two international championships. Joe also served for years on the USBGA Board of Directors. He received many awards including the Ben Hogan Award in 1970 and the PGA "Man of the Year" award in 1984. In 1995, USBGA created an award for the Most Improved Player at each national championship, named the Lazaro Trophy, and in 2007 the organization inducted Joe into its inaugural Hall of Fame.
He was also a lifetime member of the Waltham Lions Club, sponsors of the annual Lazaro Celebrity "Hope For The Blind" Golf Tournament. Joe was also a supporter and mentor of individuals and programs run by the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton and the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown. He gave inspirational and motivational talks to groups of all kinds locally and throughout the country during his golfing career.
Always one to remind people that golf is a team game, Joe recognized the importance of his coaches over the years and paid special attention to acknowledge them at every opportunity; Joe Curley, John Callahan, Robert Trethewey, Mike Meehan, Peter Bourque, Steve Martini, Jim Demoy, Dick Roche and Robert Jennette.
Joe had been a member at Wayland Golf Club and at Nashawtuc Country Club in Concord and had been a former member of the Loyal Order of Moose, Lodge No. 1018, in Waltham.
In addition to his wife of almost sixty-eight years, Edna 'Skip' (Basnett) Lazaro, he leaves his children, Lynne Lazaro of Wellesley, Joan Cavanaugh and her husband, Jerome, of Milton and Joseph C. Lazaro III, and his wife, Victoria, of Waltham; his grandchildren, Jonathon Cavanaugh, Amanda Lazaro, Jessica Gelineau and her husband, Chris, and Kathryn Cavanaugh; his brother, Bernard Lazaro and his wife, Madeline, of Marlborough and many nieces and nephews.
Joe was also a brother of the late Mary Groppi, Marshall Lazaro, Adela Franchetti and Vivian Grigorakos.
Funeral services for Joe will be private.
Memorial donations may be made to the Carroll Center for the Blind, 770 Centre Street, Newton, MA 02458 or online at www.carroll.org