Leon Croce, a long-time Lodi resident, passed away on October 30, 2012 at the age of 90. Leon was born in Livermore, CA on June 8, 1922 and moved with his family to Lodi in 1937. He graduated from Lodi Union High School in 1940 and played on that years championship football team.
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Leon joined the US Army Air Corps shortly after graduation and while in the military achieved the rank of Master Sergeant. He served in WWII and was awarded the Air Medal for his service with the "Burma Bridge Busters", completing 50 missions as a B-25 tailgunner in the China-Burma-India theatre. One mission ended in a jungle crash landing where the crew counted 279 holes in their ship.
Following the war, Leon returned to Lodi where he began his life-long career in the restaurant business. He owned and operated Croce's Cafe, a local landmark dinner house, for over 30 years. The restaurant was his love, and he considered the employees and patrons his family.
Leon was proud of his Catholic Faith and selflessly dedicated himself to helping others in need. He gave his time, talent and treasure to many individuals and charities. He especially enjoyed his time driving cancer patients to treatment centers for over 20 years.
Leon was preceded in death by his sister, Lucille Rusk of Stockton. He is survived by two nephews, Thomas Rusk and Robert Rusk and wife Janay of Lodi and niece Kathleen Efird and husband Russell of Caruthers, CA. He is also survived by nine great nieces and nephews and dearest friend, Teresa Aberle of Stockton.
Visitation will be Sunday 1:00pm to 7:00pm with the vigil beginning at 7:00pm at the Donahue Funeral Home, 123 N. School St., Lodi.
The Mass of Christian Burial will be Celebrated Monday at 10:00am at St. Anne's Catholic Church, 215 W. Walnut St., Lodi. Committal will be private at San Joaquin Catholic Mausoleum.
Remembrances may be sent to St. Mary's Dining Room, 545 W. Sonora St., Stockton, CA 95203.
Published in Lodi News-Sentinel from November 2 to November 9, 2012