John's Story

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PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL: John Lagoulis, 96, WWII Veteran, Columnist and Author, of Palm Beach Gardens, passed away peacefully in the Hospice Palliative Unit, Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center. His daughter, Joan, his caregiver for many years, was at his side.

John, a son of Greek immigrants, was second of four children born to the late Anthony and Jennie (Niarchos) Lagoulis. He grew up in Newburyport, and graduated from Newburyport High School in1938. He also attended Bradshaw Business College, Andover. In 1934, during the Great Depression, he joined the United States Civilian Conservation Corps. Stationed at Fort Devens and later at Camp #1178, East Jaffrey, N.H. he participated in the construction of roads, parks, clearing land in the Monadnock Mountain Range and Annette State Park. A welder by trade he worked building combat submarines at the Portsmouth, NH Navy Yard. During WWII he proudly served and defended his country overseas in the Asiatic/Pacific Campaign (1942-1945) in the U.S. original 58th Seabee Navy Mobile Construction Battalion “Construimus Batuimus” – “We Build, We Fight.” He experienced active combat on Guadalcanal, Okinawa, Vella Lavella, Fiji, Solomon, Admiralties, Russell Islands, and New Zealand. He fought in three combat invasions on Guadalcanal, Okinawa, Vella Lavella. He was a recipient of the WWII Victory Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, and for his heroic combat duty received a medal of three bronze stars for Valor in the South Pacific. He received a written Commendation from Secretary of Navy and was “hereby awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for outstanding heroism in action against enemy Japanese forces during the invasion and establishment of a fighter air base on Vella Lavella, Northern Solomons August 13 to 31, 1943.” While on Okinawa John was asked to aid in the construction of a memorial granite stone. As was ordered by the General of The 6th Marine Division, “a memorial stone will stand at the gate of The 6th Marine Division and Navy Seabees Division on Okinawa; it will face west to the sea, toward Japan.” John drew upon his welding and blacksmith skills and made the necessary cutting tools; two other Seabees used his tools to cut the stone. It is in the form of one large, granite cross which remains there today, representing all the marines and navy men, who died fighting in the Pacific. John also served in the Naval Reserves for seven additional years. After returning from WWII, he married Maria Manolopoulos of Lowell. They had one child, Joan Lagoulis. He taught auto body and welding during the early 1950’s. He worked for the First Army, Ayer, MA, and later for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as a Jr. Correctional Officer at Concord State Correctional Facility. He also worked for the U.S. Postal Dept., Boston. They vacationed often in Alaska, eventually retiring to Florida in 1985. John was a Life Member of the following: Seabees Veterans of America -Island X-12, Palm Beaches; Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 2007, WPB; VFW Post 9978, Anchorage, AK; National Association of Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni; Commanders Club of Disabled American Veterans Assoc.; U.S. Navy Construction Battalion 58th Seabee Assoc.; Member - Retired State, County, &Municipal Employees Assoc., MA; Member - American Civil Liberties Union. In 2009 at 90, he began a writing career. He wrote a popular local history column in the Newburyport Daily News (2009 – 2014) and became a well-known columnist. Fans often commenting, “John has the magic.” “His writings are special and stand out amongst others.” “What an inspiration he is!” “John is an icon.” In 2011 at 91 he wrote and published, Newburyport: As I Lived It! Trials and Tribulations of a Young Wharf Rat during the Early 1900’s in MA, a legacy, Vol. I. In 2012 at 92 he published Vol. II. He chronicled events in his life during the early 1900’s (i.e. days of rum runners, bootleggers, the Great Depression) writing non-fiction to preserve that period’s local events and history. His writings, publications and DVD are available in Newburyport archives, libraries, book stores and museums throughout the Newburyport, MA area and can also be purchased from his daughter. His books are ‘Registered with the United States Library of Congress and Certified under the Seal of the United States Copyright Office’. John was a very devoted husband and father. He enjoyed retirement years at his home in Florida; summers in Newburyport and Salisbury. John thanks the many dear individuals who encouraged him to write before entering the dodders of his nonagenarian years. John is predeceased by his beloved wife, Maria; his father, Anthony Lagoulis; mother, Jennie (Niarchos) Lagoulis; brother, Speros Lagoulis; sister, Florence (Lagoulis) Golden; sister, Ann (Lagoulis) Marshall. John leaves his devoted daughter, Dr. Joan Lagoulis, EdD. John was a man of integrity; a good, kind, generous person; a true treasure, who has left the world a unique legacy through his published works. He will be missed by many. “Any bad, however small, that a man does lives after him; while all the good he does is oft interred with his bones.” (William Shakespeare, April 26, 1564-April 26, 1616)

Elliott, Woodworth & Rogers Family Funeral Home were entrusted with the local arrangements. John loved all animals. Donations may be made in his memory to the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society, Inc., 63 Elm St., Salisbury, MA 01952 or your local Animal Rescue League or Animal Care & Control. A special thank you to the staff of the Hospice Palliative Care Unit at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, TrustBridge Hospice Health and the Sunflower Team for the care, comfort and compassion John received at home throughout the final year of his long life. Donations may be made in John’s memory to Hospice of Palm Beach County, 5300 East Ave., West Palm Beach, FL 33407.
Published on  March 31, 2016
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