Gaudi, 90, a fixture in Jeannette, football field ticket booth
The phrase “90 years young” aptly describes Paruco Park resident Paul Gaudi, who celebrated his big birthday this fall.
Gaudi is probably best known in the community for working at the Jeannette High School football games at the ticket booth.
“They had a shindig for me at (a) game. That was before my birthday, because Jeannette was going to be away. That was a surprise,” he said. “They had a nice big cake and everybody that came to the game had a piece of cake.”
His family also had a birthday party for him at Rizzo’s Malabar Inn to celebrate the milestone.
Although that party was not a surprise, Gaudi said, “It was a really nice party. I knew about it, but my brother from California came. I didn’t know that and I was surprised. We had the party before my birthday because my grandson was here with two of his kids and we wanted them to be there.”
He’s been working at the Jayhawk games for decades.
“I’ve been working the games for the past 55 to 60 years. Some years I took care of the band, then I worked the reserve-seat section, but mostly I worked at the gate collecting tickets,” said Gaudi.
He is a lifelong resident of Jeannette. His entire teaching career, with the exception of one year, was in the Jeannette School District. Gaudi also coached basketball, girls and boys, and, for 20 years, he coached the golf team— a sport near and dear to his heart. Gaudi still golfs every Thursday, in good weather, with the Jeannette Golf League at Cloverleaf Golf Club.
Gaudi graduated from Jeannette High School in 1943, at the height of the World War II. He was drafted into the U.S. Navy a week after graduation and was in combat duty in the Pacific theater.
Gaudi served on the U.S.S. Pittsburgh.
“I was in the South Pacific for the second carrier plane raids on Japan. Then we went to Iwo Jima for the invasion. My brother Bernard was also at Iwo Jima for the invasion, but I didn’t know that until six months later,” said Gaudi.
The Pittsburgh was a heavy class cruiser. Gaudi was a pointer in the No. 1 turret on No. 1 gun. Aboard the Pittsburgh, Gaudi and fellow soldiers were also provided cover at the invasion of Okinawa and sortied again near southern Japan.
Afterward, the ship was caught in a typhoon and severely damaged.
Although she did not sink, the entire bow was shorn off, earning the Pittsburgh the title of “the longest ship in the world,” because the bow was towed to Guam, while the Pittsburgh, with a makeshift bow headed to Puget Sound Naval Yard for repairs.
“That was one of the big things that happened to us. We also missed all the festivities going on in Japan after the surrender because of the damage to the ship,” said Gaudi. After returning home, Gaudi went to Salem College in West Virginia, where he met his wife, Dora. The couple has been married for 55 years and will celebrate their anniversary on Nov. 24.
Gaudi majored in health and physical education. He taught for one year at Grapeville in 1951 and then taught at Jeannette until 1987.
The Gaudis have four children — Jerrold Gaudi of Baltimore, Marcia Aducci of North Huntingdon, Linda Gaudi of Fairfax, Va., and Doreen Gaudi of Jeannette. They also have three grandchildren and two great grandchildren and one on the way, due in December.
Along with playing golf, Gaudi plays bocce at the M&S Club, is a member of Ascension Church, is a past member of the Jeannette Centennial Band and has been a member of the American Legion for 68 years.
Gaudi also does woodworking and is an avid winemaker. The favors at his birthday party where splits of wine under his own private label. Over the past few years he has won first-, second- and third-place ribbons for his wine at Greendance Winery.
When it comes to his big birthday, Gaudi said, “It feels good to be 90 when I feel good. There’s got to be a little luck involved. It’s great to have all your faculties and not be worried about someone taking care of you.”
To learn more about World War II, golfing, coaching or winemaking, get to know neighbor Paul Gaudi.
Margie Stanislaw is a contributing writer.