ST. PETE BEACH — He had seen his share of hardship. His share of action. But Joseph Card Jr. wasn't the type to sit around and vie for sympathy — or glory. He was modest and very private.
Surely, he wouldn't like to be featured in the newspaper.
But his family wants to let people in on the interesting stories they might never otherwise hear.
At 13, he was homeless.
His parents had divorced and handed him off to his grandparents, who soon both died. It was the Depression era, and his extended family couldn't afford to take him in.
He ducked through the streets of Brockton, Mass., finding shelter wherever he could. One day, starving, he tried to steal a can of soup from a corner store. The store owner stopped him — if he needed food, he could work it.
Mr. Card moved in behind the store and worked there until he was 17. But it was clear, when he was old enough, joining the military was his best option.
In his 20s, he was in the second wave of Marines to land at Iwo Jima. His job was to probe debris with bayonets and sticks to find bombs that hadn't exploded, his family said. It was a task that nowadays, a machine handles.
His fifth day there, he posed for a picture with four soldiers. They leaned on an airplane fuselage riddled with bullet holes. Mount Suribachi, site of the iconic flag-raising photo, stood in the distance. Mr. Card smirked, cigarette in hand.
The next day, those four friends were killed. Mr. Card was injured, shot in the back. He left the island.
He never talked much about those days.
By his 60s, his life had settled down considerably.
He had a career as a director for the Veterans Administration, serving in Puerto Rico and Hartford, Conn. He and his second wife, Barbara, had a son, Matt.
In 1978, he retired to St. Pete Beach. He loved to dine at Carrabba's and Macaroni Grill. He was easygoing and fun, cigarette always in hand.
He got involved at St. John Vianney Catholic Church on St. Pete Beach, where he and his wife ran a bingo fundraiser. Almost every day, he stopped at church to pray. But he liked to go unseen — if someone spotted him, he'd say he was passing through on an errand.
Toward the end, ailing with emphysema, he let his emotions show. He told his family how he loved them. And on Monday, Mr. Card died. He was 89.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8857.