AMerican Veteran 10

Leonard R. Devanna

December 18, 1922 ~ September 5, 2023 (age 100) 100 Years Old


Leonard Richard Devanna, 100, died peacefully on Tuesday, September 5, 2023, at Langdon Place in Nashua surrounded by his loving family. He was the husband of the late Hazel (Wall) Devanna with whom he shared 19 years of marriage prior to her passing.

Leonard was born in Arlington, Massachusetts on December 18, 1922, and was the son of the late Richard and Katherine B. (Murray) Devanna. He received his education in the Lowell School System.

In January 1943, he enlisted and proudly served in the United States Army during WWII as a member of the 407th Buzz Bomb Kings. On D Day + 16, his unit landed on Normandy Beach with their heavy artillery equipment. Leonard, with his unit served in England, France, Belgium, and Holland.

After the war, Leonard was employed as a heavy equipment mechanic at Atlantic Roofing until he had his own businesses including two gas and service stations in Burlington and Arlington and a Snap-On tool franchise. Leonard was a member of the Knight of Columbus #6800 and the American Legion, Post 99.

 In his early years, he enjoyed hiking, camping, fishing, waterskiing with his family. He coached many Little League baseball teams in Burlington and was an avid bowler. He was a member of the Union bowling league in Waltham for over 10 years and enjoyed doing so alongside his son, Rick. Leonard enjoyed cruises and traveling with his late wife, Hazel, visiting various destinations including Alaska and Europe. In his later years, Leonard resided in Florida with Hazel where he found a love for dancing and enjoyment of music. His love of music continued at Langdon Place in Nashua, where he was an active participant in the sing-alongs offered to him and other residents. Above all, his most cherished time was spent with his family who he loved deeply.

He is survived by his two sons, Leonard R. Devanna Jr. along with his wife Zongnan of San Diego and Richard J. Devanna along with his wife Patricia of Nashua; five grandchildren, Leonard “Len” Devanna along with his wife Toni, David Devanna, Patrice Sampaio along with her husband Frank, Valerie Devanna, and Richard “Rick” Devanna along with his wife Alecia. He is also survived by his five great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

In addition to his wife, Hazel, and his parents, he was predeceased by his first wife of 28 years, Edna K. (Warner); his sisters, Alice Pepin and Florence Chirichiello and Gertrude Cooper.

Relatives and friends are invited to Leonard’s Graveside service and presentation of military honors on THURSDAY, September 14th at 10 AM in the New Hampshire Veteran Cemetery, 110 Daniel Webster Hwy, Boscawen, NH. Interment will follow. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Leonard’s name to either Home, Health and Hospice, 7 Executive Park Drive, Merrimack, NH 03054 or to Tunnels to Towers Foundation, 2361 Hylan Boulevard, Staten Island, NY 10306. 


Leonard's 100th Birthday Biography

Lenny Devanna was born on December 18, 1922, to Irish parents who had just migrated to the US from Newfoundland. His parents left Newfoundland due to its limited economic future and dismal living conditions. They arrived in the US several years before the Great Depression, making the Depression a significant part of Lenny's childhood memories.

To survive the Depression, the family had to split apart to make ends meet. Lenny, one of four children, was sent to live with his older sister in a one-room schoolhouse. When Lenny was eight, the family reunited and moved to a small farm in Lowell. His father, a trained optometrist, had little opportunity for work in his profession and had to learn to farm quickly. He took on the challenge by reading numerous farming books. From his studies, he became a successful farmer. Lenny describes this time: "We didn't have much money, but with the farm, we were never hungry."

When Lenny was twelve, his father bought the family's first car. It was an old Pontiac, and Lenny drove it over the farm fields as his father worked the plow behind it. At sixteen, economic conditions improved, and Lenny's father became a partner in an optometry business in Boston. With his father working in Boston, Lenny, as the only son, had to assume full responsibility for the farm.

Fortunately, the optometry business grew, and the family left the farm and moved to Cambridge to be closer to the father's business. Lenny got a job with Atlantic Roofing working with heavy equipment. By day, Lenny was doing serious mechanical work while, by night, he was enjoying the typical teenage life with passions for baseball, dancing, roller skating, and girls.

One evening at the skating rink, a beautiful girl asked if she could borrow his skating key. Lenny was more than pleased to assist her, but when the night was over, he realized she had not returned the key to him. The next day he looked up her address and visited her with the excuse that he needed the key back. To both, it was love at first sight. From that moment, Lenny and Edna Warner became a permanent couple.

The following year, Hitler invaded Russia, Germany continued the Blitz of V-1 rockets against Britain's major cities, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and the US entered the war. The Army inducted Lenny on January 14, 1943.

Lenny knew that he would likely be going to Europe. However, his first assignment was to the Mojave Desert. He always found it somewhat ironic that to prepare for Europe, the Army sent him and five hundred other New Englanders to the Mojave Desert to train. The Army pushed the soldiers through a grueling training schedule with the desert temperatures hovering above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It was there that Lenny's unit, the 407th Buzz Bomb Kings, was formed. The unit's mission was to shoot down the German's V-1 Buzz Bombs before they reached their targets in England.

The Buzz Bomb Kings completed their training in early January 1944 and gave their soldiers a brief period to return home before departing to Europe. Lenny returned home and married Edna on January 12. In February, Lenny and his unit left for England to prepare for the pending D-Day invasion. On the morning of June 22 (D Day + 16), the 407th, with their heavy artillery, landed on Normandy Beach from the English ship, HMS "Battle Axe."

The Buzz Bomb Kings served in England, France, Belgium, and Holland. During the war, the Germans launched 2,394 flying bombs toward England. The American artillery units destroyed 93% of these missiles before they reached their targets in England. Lenny departed Europe for home on December 27, 1945. When recently asked about his accomplishments in the war, he answered directly and clearly, "The important things we accomplished were what we did as a group; it was never about personal glory." Today, Lenny is part of the last one percent of World War II Americans still living.

Lenny returned home and assumed his previous position at Atlantic Roofing. In 1948, he built a house with his father for his emerging family. As the house neared completion, the City told Lenny that the house was on a planned Rt. 128 Lexington offramp and, therefore, had to be relocated. The house was then moved approximately one mile to a pristine hillside with a distant view of the new Rt. 128 construction activity and blueberry fields to the south and west. It was an idyllic location to raise a family. Lenny and Edna had two boys at this house: Lenny Jr., Rick, and their dog Teddy.

As the blueberry fields started getting replaced with houses, the family wanted a more country environment and moved to Burlington in 1958. Here, Lenny continued working for Atlantic Roofing. After several years, he decided it was time to own a business. With his experience, Lenny had good business sense and the ability to fix cars, trucks, and all other vehicles. Over the next ten years, he owned two gas stations in Burlington and Arlington and a Snap-on tool sales franchise.

Lenny and Edna were devoted to each other and their sons. The family enjoyed hiking, camping, fishing, water skiing, and other sports. During summer, they spent almost every evening at the baseball field with Lenny managing the team, his two boys playing on the team, and Edna cheering everyone on from the sidelines. But, equally as important as sports, Lenny and Edna focused on their sons' educations. Both sons completed college and have had successful careers due to Lenny's and Edna's direction and guidance.

These wonderful family years ended when, in 1972, Edna passed away after a one-year illness. Edna's passing was overwhelming to Lenny, and it took many years for him to overcome the sorrow. His life began to return to normal when he again met Hazel Bemis, who he had known from his early skating days with Edna. In the years that had passed, Hazel had raised a wonderful family. Lenny and Hazel quickly realized they had much in common and a similar plan to spend their future years as grandparents to their respective families. In 1990, they were married. After a brief period, they decided to move to Florida. Retirement was good for both since they had many friends, traveled, and enjoyed seeing their families grow and prosper.

After an extended illness, Hazel passed in 2010. Lenny was again devastated. However, he eventually realized that at his age, the percentage of men was much lower than that of women. As he explained one day, "When I was young, I was never particularly popular with women, but at this age, there are many more women than men, and that makes me very popular with the women. I enjoy this new attention." With his new popularity, Lenny enjoyed living in several senior citizen communities over the next eleven years with many friends and some travel.

Lenny has always admired people that reached the milestone of being: "One hundred years old behind the plow." Achieving this milestone has been relatively common in his family. At Langdon, Lenny will achieve the one-hundred-year-old milestone, but not behind the plow.


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Graveside Service
September 14, 2023

10:00 AM
New Hampshire Veteran Cemetery, Boscawen


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