Honoring and laying to rest a Coast Guard veteran

7th Coast Guard District News by Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael De Nyse.

Family, friends and military brethren honored and celebrated the life of Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Frank L. Spatuzzi during a funeral ceremony at St. Cecelia’s Catholic Church in Clearwater Fla., Saturday.

Spatuzzi died Jan. 13, at Suncoast Hospice House in Brookside, Fla., after his health declined from a fall he suffered Dec. 24, 2011. He was 93.

Spatuzzi was born in 1918 in Vauxhall, N.J., but was raised in Newark, N.J. Early in life, Spatuzzi’s talents as a “ball-player” open doors for him. By the age of 18, he earned a scholarship to Seton Hall University. Playing first base, and hitting more than a .400 average, Spatuzzi was on track to play professional baseball. He was so talented, years later he was elected to the university’s athletic hall of fame.

At the age of 19, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree and by the age of 21, he had a Masters degree from Seton Hall University.

Spatuzzi’s academic and athletic achievements came to an abrupt halt in 1941, when the United States was thrust into war. Without hesitation, Spatuzzi traded in his baseball glove for patriotic duty. He put his athletic career on hold and joined the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

Lt. j.g. Frank Spatuzzi

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda McKillip folds the national ensign during Lt. j.g. Frank Spatuzzi’s funeral ceremony.

During the war, Spatuzzi fought in the Pacific with great distinction. As an officer, he participated in the invasions of D-Day of Saipan, Tinian, and Leyte. A suicide plane hit Spatuzzi’s vessel while he was fighting in the Philippine Islands, in 1944.

Spatuzzi was hospitalized for more than two years. In 1946, he was decorated for his courage under fire and was awarded the Purple Heart for shrapnel wounds that left him with a life-long limp.

After leaving the military, Spatuzzi was never able to play baseball again; however, that misfortune didn’t damper his spirits.

“I live by three virtues,” said Spatuzzi in a recent interview. “One is compassion. The other is sensitivity. And the third one is integrity. I don’t need anything else.”

Spatuzzi went on to teach high school and then on to start a very successful construction business. He was also instrumental in building St. Peter’s Orphanage in New Jersey. He retired from the construction business in 1992.

In the 1970s he met his wife, Inge, a paralegal in a lawyer’s office. Each had been married and divorced, with eight children total. They married in 1985 and Spatuzzi later celebrated the union with a necklace he designed. It had cursive letters spelling “The Franchise” with a diamond dotting the “i”.

“In Frank’s lexicon, it has to do with baseball,” said Inge Spatuzzi, now 77.

“Many loved him. He will be missed, honored and never forgotten,” said a life-long friend at the ceremony.

Spatuzzi truly lived his life. He stuck by his convictions and lead by example. His loved ones, his friends and his entire Coast Guard family will surely miss him.

Spatuzzi was most recently honored last year at a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game where he threw out the first pitch. He also has permanent place in history at the Armed Forces Military Museum.

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