Groton - Capt. Lawrence E. Gemma, USNR (Ret.), a Navy helicopter pilot, made his final approach and landing Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, surrounded by a ground crew of his family. Once his graduation from flight school in Pensacola, Fla., in 1965 was completed, he eagerly applied for the chance to fly helicopters, enjoyed many duty assignments, and eventually served in the position of commanding officer of HSL-74 from 1985 to 1987. He served in Operation Desert Storm from May 1991 to May 1992 as deputy operations officer for COMUSNAVCENT in Bahrain as his last duty assignment. He was extremely proud of his military service and loved his fellow Navy brothers with the deepest admiration and respect. Their bond and brotherhood continue to span time and miles with their connection as close as in the days they served together.
In 1973, he began his career in retail in downtown Mystic, with his former wife, Jeanne Gemma, of Mystic, who survives him, when he opened A Stitch in Time Boutique, which held institutional status in town. Later they opened locations in the Olde Mistick Village, Groton, New London, and Westerly. His success as a small business owner and entrepreneur continued after his retirement from the Navy, when he opened Mystic Army Navy in downtown Mystic with his business partner, Bert Dahl in 1993, and then Mystic Army Navy II in the Olde Mistick Village in 1996. What an opportunity this was to discuss his military exploits with every customer who walked into the store! His loyal crew over the last 20 years of business fondly remember all of the great stories and can repeat them verbatim, (chasing Soviet subs in the mid-Atlantic during the Vietnam War). In 2010, Bert retired from the business, so Lawrence made his daughter, Michelle Gemma, who was already the general manager since 1999, his new business partner. She will continue to run both stores.
Having been in real estate for more than 26 years, he currently was owner/broker of LarryGemma Realty. He was also a Justice of the Peace and Notary Public. He was an active member of the Mystic VFW, Eastern Connecticut Association of Realtors, and numerous other fraternal and charitable groups.
Lawrence is survived by his life partner, Patricia Brigham of Noank, and her daughter, Jaymi-Lynn and husband, Scott Adams, of Auburn, Mass.; her sister, Cheryl and husband, Bill Burokas, and their four children of Auburn, and her mother, Simone, also of Auburn. Lawrence was especially proud of Patricia's army military service, by not only actively supporting her career as a colonel in the Army Nurse Corps but by being embraced by her army brotherhood who valued him as one of their own. He is also survived by his daughter, Michelle Gemma and her life partner, Richard Freitas, of Mystic, and his daughter, Maria Gemma Koster of Syracuse, N.Y.; and his grandchildren, Emma, Andrew, and Isabelle Koster of Syracuse. His sister, Elaine; and brothers, Ronald and his wife, Tita, James, Rocco and his wife, Alathia, and David, all survive him; along with several nieces and nephews.
He was predeceased by his father, Rocco, his mother, Helen, and his sister, Janice, all of Shrewsbury, Mass.
Lawrence had a passion for the theater and loved to travel, scuba dive, and celebrate with family and friends. He loved to go sailing-from his recreational days as captain of the Majestic during the 1980s, to his frequent trips with Patricia on the Mystic Whaler. He especially enjoyed his front row seat on Palmers Cove in Noank where he was able to reflect upon the many sunsets that he has known and loved. We all will remember his supreme zest for life which was only exceeded by his intense love of his daughters and grandchildren.
There will be a wake held from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31, at Dinoto Funeral Home, 17 Pearl St., Mystic. A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 1, at the Mystic Arts Center, 9 Water St., Mystic (free parking in the lot), followed by burial in the Noank Valley Cemetery with full military honors and then by a celebration at Latitude 41 at the Mystic Seaport.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the
, in memory of his sister Janice, the Trinity Repertory Company of Providence, or the U.S. Navy Foundation.
"Remember, if you are not having fun, you are not doing it right!"
Published in The Day on Oct. 30, 2013
Please consider a donation, as requested by the family.