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Decorated veteran helped to build landmarks

| Monday, Dec. 24, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

As a flight engineer in the 4th Emergency Rescue Squadron, Patrick Lavura dropped rescue boats from his B-17 to downed pilots during World War II. But his most dramatic duty involved the survivors of the sunken USS Indianapolis, a ship immortalized in “Jaws.”

A Japanese submarine had torpedoed the ship at the tail end of the war, and sharks carried off and ate many of the survivors one by one, a scene recalled by Quint, the fictitious, shark-hating sea captain in the movie. Nearly 600 men died in the sea over five days from their wounds, thirst, starvation and sharks.

“My Dad was on a rescue squadron plane, and he was shooting the sharks,” said daughter Patricia Hazel of Matthews, N.C. “My Dad was one of the better shooters because he was a hunter, and the other guys were rescuing the guys that were in the water.

Patrick C. Lavura of Scott died Friday, December 21, 2012, in Washington Commons Assisted Living in Bridgeville. He was 93.

He was born on a farm in Girard, Ohio, on Dec. 28, 1918, to Diego and Marian Lavura, immigrants from Calabria, Italy, He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, stationed at bases in Saipan, Guam and Iwo Jima. He flew 13 missions over Tokyo Bay. Among his many awards were the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three Bronze Service Stars.

After the war, Mr. Lavura became a foreman with Ironworkers Union Local 3. He helped lay the steel for reinforcing concrete for several Pittsburgh landmarks, including the U.S. Steel Building, Gateway Tower No. 6 and the WQED Building in Oakland.

“He fell once, grabbed onto some kind of cable wire until they rescued him,” said son Joe Lavura of Upper St. Clair.

Mr. Lavura and his brother Victor “Hector” owned and operated Lavura Texaco on Bower Hill Road in Scott for many years.

He coached the seventh- and eighth-grade football team of Our Lady of Grace School and teams in the Bower Hill Baseball Association.

“He had a way about him. People loved him. Kids flocked to him,” his son said.

The family ate dinner together at 5 o'clock unless the boys had to play sports. He talked his wife into letting his football team use the basement of their home as a locker room when they practiced at the neighboring baseball field.

Mr. Lavura was strict with his children.

“We had to be in by a certain time, and it was always earlier than our friends,” recalled his daughter. “There were no excuses for being late. None whatsoever.”

He was preceded in death by his wife, Emily; six brothers; one sister; and a grandson.

Survivors in addition to his son and daughter include a son, Angelo, of Keyser, W.Va.; a daughter, Tina Giuntini of Scott; nine grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 1 to 9 p.m. Wednesday in Beinhauer-Fryer Funeral & Cremation Service, 430 Washington Ave., Bridgeville. Mass of Christian Burial will be at 10 a.m. Thursday in Our Lady of Grace Church in Scott. Entombment will follow in Queen of Heaven Cemetery.

The family asks that memorials be in the form of donations to Our Lady of Grace Angel Fund, 310 Kane Blvd., Pittsburgh, PA, 15243.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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