Of his 89 years on this earth, Samuel Lazenby spent about 65 of them married to Eloise. She died in November 2009 and, he said, “I miss her every day.”
He also misses his longtime home in College Park, a house he and his wife purchased in 1965 after renting nearby for two years. Born in Augusta, Georgia, on April 2, 1924, he was then working as a salesman for the Morris Cookie Company. He was made a regional manager overseeing other managers in southern Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
“I had some good people on my team. That makes a difference,” he said. “I enjoyed the work…it kept me busy.”
Growing up in Georgia, Samuel attended the Academy of Richmond County – a military school – for high school and joined the Navy at 18. He chose the Navy because the Academy had turned him off the Army, he said. “I wasn’t cut out for hand-to-hand combat,” he chuckled.
He ended up fighting in World War II, however, being stationed for 22 months in the South Pacific, 16 months on Maui, and 6 months on the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise CV-6. Samuel is matter-of-fact while speaking of his wartime service, but becomes more animated when he describes his time on the Enterprise.
“It was the most decorated ship in World War II but I was only on it 6 months. I was on it during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest battle in the Pacific. George H.W. Bush was in that battle. He was a pilot and the same age as me but he wasn’t on my ship. The Enterprise was the only ship not hit but we had a near miss. Our ship shot down a suicide pilot headed straight for us. I can still remember seeing the pilot as the plane went down…it was that close. It would have hit right where we were.”
He used to attend reunions for World War II vets, he said, but has not been to one in years because most of the people he served with are gone.
“I was a 2nd Class Petty Officer when I was on the USS Enterprise, and I made 1st Class after I came back to the states. I was stationed in Jacksonville and then Vero Beach. That’s where I met my wife. We met on a blind date in 1945,” he recalled. “It was meant to be. God wanted us to be together.”
Samuel becomes emotional when speaking of his wife but, in what appears to be a typical stoicism, describes her as “a wonderful girl!”
In the war “there was satisfaction in doing things that had to be done and in doing things right,” he reflected. He has always loved having a purpose to his days, he reflected, and had no special aspiration to do anything other than what he did. The important thing was to do a good job and make a good life for his family, he said.
After he was transferred to Orlando in 1963, he and Eloise set about making a life for themselves and their daughter Mary. The house in College Park was their pride and joy and he still owns it.
Last year he fell and broke three ribs and has had a slow recovery. He came to The Fountains at Orlando Lutheran Towers last November, he said, mostly to alleviate his daughter’s worry about his living alone.
“I would love to be home. There is no place like home. But, it’s alright here. I’ve made friends here and some of my friends come by to see me. On Wednesday morning all the men here meet for breakfast. There is a good community here,” he said, “people are friendly. My daughter comes to see me several times a week and I go to Woodlawn (cemetery) once a week to visit my wife.”
He was the youngest of six children but now he is the only one left.
“I just take it day by day,” Samuel said. “At my age, that’s all you can do. I am thankful I am as healthy as I am and can get around.”