By Maria Camila Bernal
Gaeton Fonzi spent months away from his family conducting interviews in Washington D.C., worked countless hours retrieving documents and files, and dedicated years to writing what would be one of the most recognized publications concluding a conspiracy in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
“He was writer in his soul,” said his wife, Marie Fonzi. “He never stopped thinking about the stories, about the assassination.”
He wrote more than 100 feature articles as senior editor of Philadelphia Magazine, wrote countless stories for publications nationwide, was the editor of Miami Magazine and the senior editor at Gold Coast Magazine. He won numerous awards for his writing, including two local Sigma Delta Chi Awards and a National Sigma Delta Chi Award.
Recognized as a successful investigative journalist, Gaeton Fonzi was selected to join the U.S. Senate and House Committees that investigated the JFK assassination.
Fonzi died Thursday in the arms of his wife of 56 years after having battled Parkinson’s disease for years. He was 76.
He was born in West New York, N.J. and grew up playing baseball and listening to country music. His love for the New York Yankee’s and admiration of Joe DiMaggio accompanied him all his life.
He met Marie at the University of Pennsylvania where they both studied journalism. He was the editor of the school newspaper and spent the afternoons hanging out with Marie and doing homework with her.
After college, he took a job at the Delaware County Daily, where he filled in for writers who went out on vacation. During the draft for the Korean War, Fonzi became an infantry officer in the U.S. Army but hated the mud, discomfort and dusty roads, his wife recalled.
In 1959 Fonzi joined Philadelphia Magazine where his writings exposed Harry Karafin, a corrupt Philadelphia Inquirer reporter.
In 1972, Fonzi left Philadelphia to work with his colleague, Bernard McCormick, at Miami Magazine and later Gold Coast Magazine.
“It was his reputation that got us to strive,” said McCormick. “His success in investigative reporting was because everyone trusted him and would take risks to give him information.”
When the magazine was sold in 1975, Fonzi went to work for Pennsylvania Senator Richard Schweiker, who headed a committee reopening the investigation of JFK’s murder. Fonzi became the investigator in Florida who explored CIA connections to anti-Castro Cuban groups and possibly to Lee Harvey Oswald.
Schweiker’s committee was dissolved but after Fonzi found a connection between the groups, he continued working for a house sub-committee for the next two years. In 1993, after a decade of research on the assassination, his book “The Last Investigation’’ was published.
In Florida, Fonzi was recognized for teaming up with Fort Lauderdale police organized crime specialist Douglas Haas to expose Michael Raymond, a notorious con man suspected of defrauding and then murdering several Floridians.
“He had tremendous instincts for wrongdoings,” said McCormick. “He got a lot of publicity but he was modest about his work and was never a bragger.”
Fonzi was quiet but known for being the master of the one-liner, said Marie. In his spare time, he liked to run with his wife and go out on his boat. He never missed the Columbus Day Regatta on Biscayne Bay, where they shared beer and had balloon fights. He cooked dinner every night, wrote letters to friends and discussed the beauty of written work with his wife.
He retired and moved to Satellite Beach with his wife in 2003. That same year, Fonzi was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
In addition to his wife, Fonzi is survived by his four children, Rene, Guy, Maria and Christopher Fonzi.