Obituaries – 08-13-2014

Joseph L. Handzel

Joseph L. Handzel, 88, of Holmes Beach and formerly of West Chester, Pennsylvania, died Aug. 4 in West Chester. He was born in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, to John and Elizabeth Handzel, Slavic immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

He retired as one of the top-ranked maritime engineers in the world, making a significant contribution to the effort of the United States to mobilize its merchant shipping fleet during the First Gulf War. He was veteran of the U.S. Navy during World War II, having graduated from the U.S. Maritime Service Officers School in Fort Trumbull, New London, Connecticut.

In his maritime career, he rose to the rank of chief engineer. He received the Atlantic War Zone Bar, the Pacific War Zone Bar and the Mediterranean Middle East War Zone Bar from the War Shipping Administration, as well as the Vietnam Service Bar from the U.S. Department of Commerce Maritime Administration. Among the ships on which he served were the USS Intrepid, the SS Constitution, the SS Independence and the MS Admiral Callaghan. The Callaghan was a merchant ship that ran with jet turbine engine, and he was the first marine engineer to oversee this type of engine in a ship. He considered his service on the SS Independence as his proudest accomplishment.

His travels took him to many ports in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa, his favorite port being Sydney, Australia.

Mr. Handzel retired from a lifelong career — 1919-1977 — at age 62 from the American Export-Isbrandtsen Lines, the leading U.S.-flag shipping company between the U.S. east coast and the Mediterranean.

He came out of retirement during the First Gulf War as a consultant, providing critical assistance as the United States mobilized its merchant fleet to transport materials to the Middle East. In retirement, he also served as chief engineer on the Cape May-Lewis ferries.

His last home was in Holmes Beach, where he kept an eye out for the “green flash” that is sometimes observed at sunset.

He will be remembered as fiercely independent and private, hard working and devoted to the well-being and security of his family.

A family celebration of his life is planned at a future date. Memorial gifts may be made to Montgomery Square United Methodist Church, 1900 County Line Road, North Wales PA 19454, where his son serves as pastor. Condolences may be made by online at

Mr. Handzel was preceded in death by his wife of 47 years, Dori Lou (nee Kistler). He is survived by his son, the Rev. Steven J. and wife Beth of West Chester; daughter Marcia L. Cleason and husband James of Salt Lake City, Utah; grandchildren, Daniel, Patrick, Samantha, Meghan, Dana and James; three great-grandchildren; niece Rosalie Hauserman; and nephew Albert “Butch” Milauskas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *