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Capt. Walter Francis Mazzone


1918 - 2014 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Capt. Walter Francis Mazzone Obituary
Mazzone, Walter Francis Capt. SAN DIEGO -- Capt. Walter Francis Mazzone USN (ret), passed away peacefully at his home in San Diego on August 7, 2014 at the age of 96. Born in San Jose, Calif., on January 19, 1918, to Frank and Pearl Mazzone, Walt graduated from San Jose High School in June 1936. He attended San Jose State University where he boxed and played football, graduating in June 1941. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Walt enlisted in the Navy in August 1942. Walt completed two war patrols on USS PUFFER (SS 268). During his first war patrol, PUFFER survived more than 30 hours of depth charging, the longest in submarine history. Walt transferred to USS CREVALLE (SS 291), completing five more war patrols. One patrol involved a classified mission to the Island of Negros in the Philippines to retrieve documents vital to the war effort as well as the rescue of 40 individuals who had been hiding from the Japanese. For his service in World War II, Walt received the Silver Star, Bronze Star with Combat V and the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat V. In November 1945, Walt returned to California to attend the University of Southern California, School of Pharmacy. He met and dated Lucie Margaret Oldham, a school teacher and proposed in May 1946. They were married on June 29, 1946. Walt graduated from USC in June 1948 with his Doctor of Pharmacy degree and worked at his uncle's pharmacy in San Jose, Calif. Their only child, Robert, was born in March 1949. Recalled to active duty in Nov. 1950, Walt was sent to Yokosuka, Japan and assigned to the Navy hospital. Upon his return to California, Walt was transferred to the Pharmacy Procurement Division, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y. In 1957, Walt was transferred to the Naval Medical Research Laboratory (NMRL) in New London, Conn. Walt joined with DR George Bond in efforts to enhance Navy Diving capabilities. Their efforts culminated in a series of manned chamber dives which proved the theory of Saturation diving and led to the Navy's Man in the Sea Program. This program involved open ocean dives which were known as SEALAB I and SEALAB II. As Project Officer for these challenging dives, he was responsible for the divers' safety and they affectionately referred to him as "Uncle Walt." Walt was awarded two Legions of Merit for the successful accomplishment of these dives proving that man could live and work underwater. Walt was also involved in efforts to improve escape from sunken submarines. Working closely with Lt. Harris Steinke to develop a new submarine escape device, Cmdr. Mazzone and Lt. Steinke successfully escaped from the USS BALAO (SS 285) submerged at a depth of 318 feet, a record at that time. Walt retired from the Navy in June 1970, and returned to San Diego where he and Lucie moved into their dream home overlooking Mission Bay. Walt worked at the Ocean Systems Center in Point Loma, Calif., for the next 10 years, then left government service to work at Scientific Applications International Corporation (SAIC) as a Program Manager until his retirement in 2002 at the age of 84. After retiring from the Navy, Walt and Lucie traveled extensively, including several cross country trips in their motor coach. They were members of the Family Motor Coach Association and Walt became well- known for parking motorhomes at these events taking special delight helping those with physical challenges. Walt was a true Renaissance Man. He attended Harvard from 1963 to 1964 earning his Master's in Public Health. He also taught himself how to repair antique clocks, learned to play the guitar and piano, and became fluent in Japanese. However, Walt found his true passion in Stained Glass projects and his Stained Glass Submarine Dolphins and Diving Officer Insignias became legendary. While he had fun making various glass projects, his greatest joy was watching the reaction of those who received them. Walt was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Lucie, who passed away in October 2012 after 66 years of marriage. He is survived by his son and his wife, Capt. Robert and Nancy Mazzone USN (ret), of Escondido, Calif., two grandchildren and their spouses, Margaret Pearl and William Clifford of North Hampton, N.H., and Michael Robert and Ashley Mazzone of Bristol, R.I., and five great-grandchildren Caroline Clifford, Josephine Clifford, Annabelle Clifford, Elias Mazzone and Callen Mazzone. He is also survived by his two sisters-in-law, Mary Schaffer and Sue Anderson, both of Los Angeles, as well as numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. Walt was a humble and quiet man who lived life to the fullest and believed that the greatest joy was achieved in helping others. He will be greatly missed. A Celebration of Life will be held at the Torrey Pines Christian Church in La Jolla, Calif., at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014. Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to the Man in the Sea Museum, 17314 Panama City Beach Pkwy, Panama City Beach, Fla.

Published in The San Diego Union Tribune on Aug. 17, 2014
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