Long Lost Watch Becomes Symbol of Values, Kindness
It had been awarded to Guy Zaccone of Wakefield back in 1958 by the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts – the oldest military organization in the Western Hemisphere. Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company members served on every battlefield from Bunker Hill to Yorktown, the War of 1812 and the Civil War, both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm.
John Zaccone, Sr., Guy’s son, grew up in Wakefield and now lives in New Hampshire. He hadn’t seen the watch since before his father died in 1986, and for the last 22 years he had no reason to believe he’d ever see it again.
Then his son, John Zaccone, Jr., Guy’s grandson, got a phone call out of the blue.
On the other end of the line was Frank Zoda of Ware Street in Greenwood. Zoda said that he had an impressive looking watch with the name “Guy Zaccone” engraved on the back. He had looked up the name Zaccone in the Wakefield phone book, hoping to track down a relative of the watch’s owner.
When his son told him about the call, John Zaccone, Sr. was at first doubtful. Zaccone, Sr. admitted that given “the often less-than-honorable intentions some folks have these days, I was skeptical and hesitant as to the authenticity of the story. I’m very happy to report that my initial thought couldn’t have been further from the truth.”
It turns out that the watch had been in the basement workshop of a now deceased local jeweler, Tom Hanright, who lived next door to the Zoda’s. Hanright had worked for years at Sorenson’s, a long-time Albion Street jeweler, and eventually bought the business from Mr. Sorenson.
The watch was hanging on a board with at least a dozen other unidentified watches that had been dropped off at the jeweler’s by their owners for cleaning or repair and never picked up. When Hanright retired, they ended up in his basement workshop.
Due to failing health, Hanright fell on hard times in his later years. Frank Zoda would often walk next door to visit his ailing neighbor and lend a helping hand if he could. Before Hanright died, he told Zoda to take the board with the orphaned watches. Zoda took the watches, but at the time they were of little interest to him. For years, they sat in a box in Zoda’s home.
Recently, Zoda happened to pull one watch out of the box and was showing it to his wife, Pat. She turned it over and saw the inscription on the back. It was clear that the military organization had given the watch to Guy Zaccone as an award of some kind.
Both Pat and Frank Zoda had the same reaction. “This watch belongs with that family,” Pat said, as Frank set about checking the phone book to see if there were any Zaccones still living in Wakefield.
When he reached John Zaccone, Jr., Zoda invited him and his father to come by his home and pick up the watch.
The Zaccones visited the Zodas on a recent Saturday morning and were treated to coffee and pastry and reunited with their long-lost family heirloom.
“Evidently my father had brought the watch to an Albion Street jeweler for repair, cleaning or whatever,” John Zaccone, Sr. said. “The jeweler had since gone out of business, my father had passed and the watch, along with other random pieces was relegated to a box and stored in the jeweler’s basement.”
It turned out that Pat Zoda and John Zaccone, Sr. remembered many of the same teachers from their days at Wakefield High School, including Dr. Elizabeth Upham. John Zaccone, Sr. grew up in Wakefield and graduated from Wakefield High School in 1964. Pat Zoda graduated from WHS in 1958 – her classmates will remember her as Patricia Moff.
“It was a very happy occasion,” Pat Zoda says of the Zaccones visit. When she told Zaccone, Sr. that the watch still ran, “his face lit up,” Pat says.
John Zaccone, Jr., is a World War II history buff, and was impressed to learn that US Navy veteran Frank Zoda served in the Pacific during the War, and was on the destroyer USS Hale in Tokyo Harbor when the Japanese surrendered.
For the younger Zaccone, Frank Zoda’s determined effort to return the watch to its rightful owners reflects the values of the World War II generation.
“Most people’s reaction, especially today, would be ‘What can I get for this?’” Zaccone says. Instead, Zaccone points out, Zoda’s response was to ask, “What is the right thing to do?”
“That’s so typical of his generation,” Zaccone says. “They went overseas as kids, 17-21 years old, did their service, came home and just carried on. That generation is so selfless and humble. They’re so humble that they don’t demand attention for literally changing the world.”
Both Frank and Pat Zoda say that the thought of trying to sell the valuable watch never occurred to them. In fact, someone tried to convince Frank to take the timepiece to a jeweler to see what he could get for it. But Zoda wouldn’t consider it. No matter how much it turned out to be worth, Zoda was determined that the watch belonged with the Zaccones.
“I would still give it back to the family even if it were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Zoda says. “All the more reason to return it to the family.”
John Zaccone, Sr. was touched by the “uncommon thoughtfulness” exhibited by Frank and Pat Zoda.
“My son and I went to their home where we were treated as special guests,” Zaccone said. “At the end of the visit we left with the watch. It runs and I often wear it in tribute to my father.”
[This story first appeared in the May 1, 2008 Wakefield Daily Item.]
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