Lucci looks back on life in Westport

Westport resident Pat Lucci, at 97, professes to racking up seven holes-in-one at Longshore in half a century of play there.

"They all were from the eighth tee, a distance of 135 yards -- the shortest hole," he said. Lucci allowed that he's worked for decades at trying to be a fairly good golfer.

"When I was 85, I did a 74 at Longshore," he said.

Asked about that, veteran golfers agreed -- "Not too shabby."

An artist by profession, he is the holder of what he perceives may be among the longest continuous commutes to New York City from Westport -- 68 years.

When he started riding the train, the monthly fare for the 94-mile round trip was $16.40.

"I rode the train for 68 years," he said in an interview, during which he reflected on cards fate dealt him -- good and bad -- since starting out in Westport as an Italian immigrant at the age of 16. At the time, he didn't speak a word of English.

"I picked up words by listening to other boys talking when I walked with them to and from school," he said. "I just mumbled the sounds at first."

He graduated from the old Staples High School on Riverside Avenue with the class of 1935, and won a four-year scholarship to the New York School of Design. That led him to a nearly 70-year career drawing and designing for Mobil Oil Company magazines. Lucci thinks he was born to draw.

"When I was little, I drew pictures on the blank walls of my Uncle's barber shop," he said. "Long as I can remember, I was drawing."

Reflecting on his days at Staples, which was more than a mile from his family's home on Franklin Street, Lucci recalled that the high school was mainly girls.

"Most Westport boys high school age were out working. It was the depths of the Great Depression and families needed the money they earned," he said.

Lucci's dad, Salvatore Iapalucci, had a job at a wire works factory in Southport that enabled him to give his son a 10-cent-a-week allowance.

As a young artist working in New York for an ad agency, Lucci later was encouraged to shorten the family name to Lucci.

"The boss called me in one day and said there was confusion because the bank and accountants were not able to stick to the correct spelling of Iapalucci," he said. "To end the confusion we settled on shortening it to Lucci."

After the ad agency, Lucci operated from his own studio on E. 44th St., near his big client Mobil Oil Company on E. 42nd St.

When Mobil moved to Virginia in the late '80s, Lucci was invited to continue drawing for the magazines. He declined. It would have meant two trips to Virginia every week.

After that, he gleefully expanded his play at Longshore to seven days a week. Asked if his wife Marguerite ever complained about being a golf widow, Lucci replied: "Never."

He said his wife, who died at 87, when he was 91, was a trained opera singer and pianist. She taught voice and piano and really had no interest in golf, according to Lucci. "Marguerite's love was opera and piano," he said.

Since retiring, Lucci took on a part-time job with golfing buddy Bror Ingvarson, a retired banker. For 15 years, now, the two have been up at dawn to move Longshore's 48 electric carts from the barn and line them up for golfers.

"I told John Cooper, I would continue doing this as long as I can walk," Lucci told the Westport News the other morning as he lined up carts. Cooper, the Longshore pro, is also the superintendent of the course.

Lucci said the year beginning in October 2008 has not been kind to him. First, he had to surrrender golfing and driving due to his age-related visual deficiency. And a few months ago, his daughter Patricia Jannuzzi, died at age 56.

"For weeks I thought I could not go on," Lucci said.

"Then my granddaughter Kathy Pinkahn lost her dog. And my son Salvatore in New Haven had to put down his cat who had an inoperable brain tumor," he continued.

"I said, `God, can't you let up on me?' "

"After a while God answered me ... I was filling with a spirit that I must go on," Lucci said.

Lucci figured he could only survive by keeping busy. "It seems to be working," he said as he lined up the golf carts.