Alfred A. Canzian – Sergeant, United States Marine Corps


Alfred A. Canzian was a trim 165 pounds when he landed on the Pacific island of Guadalcanal as a young Marine during World War II.

He weighed about 100 pounds when he left the island months later, hobbled by lack of food and a serious wound.

“It took him six months to recuperate,” said his son, Michael, of Dallas.

Sergeant Canzian, 88, a World War II veteran who was awarded three Purple Hearts for combat wounds, died last Thursday in his home in Houston of a blood disorder. He had lived for many years in Richland.

Raised in East Liberty, Sergeant Canzian dropped out of school before high school to work. He was an apprentice cement mason when World War II broke out. He enlisted in the Marines, a move his family said was a good fit with his personality.

“He was tough-minded, tough-willed, tough-spirited,” said his son, Philip, of Pine.

As a sergeant in charge of a mortar platoon in the 1st Marine Division, Mr. Canzian fought in a number of locations in the Asia-Pacific theater, including Guadalcanal, New Britain and New Guinea.

He received Purple Hearts for a shotgun wound of the neck, a shrapnel wound and a bayonet wound suffered in hand-to-hand combat in the jungle of Guadalcanal.

Sergeant Canzian told his family stories of hunger so severe the troops were reduced to eating leaves from trees and using dynamite charges to kill fish in the rivers. At some point, he contracted malaria.

But, in general, his sons said, their father preferred not to talk about his war experiences and began to discuss it only toward the end of his life.

As a cement mason, he worked on a number of projects, including the William S. Moorehead Federal Building, Downtown. He was a member of Cement Masons Local 526, an organization co-founded in 1915 by his father, the late Angelo Canzian.

Later in his career, he became a business representative and organizer for the union, specializing in heavy and highway construction projects. He covered 33 counties in Pennsylvania.

“He was very good at it, and very well-respected by members of his union and other unions as well,” said his nephew, Richard Daily, of Wilkins.

“If Al told you something, it was going to happen. We were very happy and proud to have him,” said Mike Giammatteo, business manager and financial secretary for the union.

Mr. Canzian retired in the early 1980s. He enjoyed hunting and fishing and spending time with his large family.

His sons said the discipline and values their father learned in the Marine Corps stayed with him throughout his life.

“He lived his life the way he wanted to live it. He was very principled and had very high integrity. He instilled those same values in his children,” Michael Canzian said.

Sergeant Canzian was formerly married to Helen Canzian. He moved to Las Vegas in 1987, then to Texas.

He is survived by his children, Philip and Michael, Daniel A. and Paul E, of Houston, Mark R., of Lake Katrine, N.ew York, Mary B. Homison, of Tarentum; and Germaine P. Foertsch, of Hermitage; and by siblings Mary B. Daily and Afra B. Miglioretti, both of Penn Hills; and Alcide Canzian, of Saltsburg; and 16 grandchildren.

A Mass was celebrated Monday in St. Richard Church in Richland. Interment with full military honors will be in Arlington National Cemetery on November 15, 2006.


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 12/19/1917
  • DATE OF DEATH: 10/26/2006


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