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Vol. 14 No. 43 - August 20, 2014


Joseph L. Handzel

Joseph L. Handzel, 88, of Holmes Beach, Fla., passed away after a short illness on Aug. 4, 2014, at Park Lane at Bellingham near the residence of his son in West Chester, Pa.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 47 years, Dori Lou (nee Kistler) and his sister, Margaret Milauskas. His survivors include his son, the Rev. Steven J. Handzel, of West Chester, and his wife Beth; his daughter, Marcia L. Cleason, of Salt Lake City, Utah, and her husband James; six grandchildren, Daniel, Patrick and Samantha Handzel and Meghan, Dana and James Joseph Handzel Cleason; three great-grandchildren; a niece, Rosalie Hauserman; and a nephew, Albert “Butch” Milauskas.

The son of Slavic immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Joseph left his hometown at the age of 18 to make his way in the world. He retired as one of the top ranked maritime engineers in the world making a significant contribution to the effort of the United States to mobilize its merchant shipping fleet during the first Gulf War.

The son of John and Elizabeth Handzel, Joseph was born in Carnegie, Pa. and raised in East Vandergrift, Pa. After graduation from Vandergrift High School, he joined the Navy. A veteran of World War II, he graduated from the U.S. Maritime Service Officers School in Fort Trumbull, New London, Conn. In his maritime career, he rose to the rank of chief engineer. He received the Atlantic War Zone Bar, the Pacific War Zone Bar and the Mediterranean Middle East War Zone Bar from the War Shipping Administration as well as the Vietnam Service Bar from the U.S. Department of Commerce Maritime Administration.

Among the ships on which he served were the USS Intrepid, the SS Constitution, the SS Independence and the MS Admiral Callaghan. The Callaghan was a merchant ship that ran with jet turbine engines. Joseph was the first merchant marine engineer to oversee this type of engine in a ship. He considered his service on the SS Independence as his proudest accomplishment. His travels took to him many ports in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa, his favorite port being Sydney, Australia. His travels provided him with brushes with history as he was in India on the day of its independence and Palestine at the time of the partition that created the State of Israel. His travels also provided the opportunity to participate in a Papal audience at the Vatican.

He retired from a lifelong career with the American Export-Isbrandtsen Lines, the leading U.S.-flag shipping company between the U.S. East Coast and the Mediterranean from 1919 to 1977, at the age of 62. He came out of retirement during the first Gulf War as a consultant providing critical assistance as the United States mobilized its merchant fleet to transport materials to the Middle East. In retirement, he also served as chief engineer on the Cape May-Lewis ferries.

His last home was in Holmes Beach on Anna Maria Island on Florida’s west coast. There, he looked forward to his daily workout at the fitness center, his daily trip to the north end of the island to read while overlooking Tampa Bay, eating dinner out at his favorite Bradenton area restaurants and viewing the spectacular west coast sunsets keeping an eye out for the “green flash” that is sometimes observed. He took pride in his ability to maintain this independent routine until his illness. Joseph will be remembered as a fiercely independent and intensely private individual, who was hard working and devoted to the well-being and security of his family.

The family will gather in a private celebration of the life of Joseph at a future date. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Montgomery Square United Methodist Church, 1900 County Line Road, North Wales, PA 19454, where his son serves as pastor. Condolences may be made by visiting:


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