John Katsaros, 97, of Haverhill, passed away on Saturday, January 9, 2021 at Beverly Hospital. He was born in Haverhill on July 6, 1923, the son of the late Speros and Helen (Christos) Katsaros.
[The above photo of John in his flight suit was taken by his daughter, Laurie, in Haverhill, MA, his home town. Click on the image to enlarge it.]
John was a graduate of Haverhill High School Class of 1942. After graduation he proudly served our nation during World War II in the Army Air Corps on a B17 bomber based in Deenethorpe, England. He was shot down over Reims, France and was taken prisoner by the Gestapo and later escaped to freedom. John was a Purple Heart recipient. After the war, John received his bachelor’s degree from Boston University. He owned and operated Katsaros Realty and Haverhill Finance.
John was involved with many organizations. Most notably, John was past president and longtime member of Haverhill Kiwanis, Haverhill Country Club and the Holy Apostles Greek Orthodox Church. He served on boards of Historic Haverhill, AHEPA, Haverhill YMCA and Linwood Cemetery. John was the longtime president of the Air Forces Escape and Evasion Society. For twenty-seven years John was the voice of Haverhill Hillies football on WHAV radio.
In 2011 the French government awarded John the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor medal for what was cited as “your personal precious contribution to the United States role in the liberation of our country during World War II”. John also wrote a book entitled “Code Burgundy – The Long Escape” detailing his service during WWII. He spoke at hundreds of locations in connection with his book over the years deriving great pleasure speaking to the public about his adventures. John’s catchphrase from his book and speaking engagements was “Cherish your Freedom”. A lifelong New England sports fan, John was honored by the Boston Celtics in 2016, as well as the Florida Panthers in 2019 for his exploits during the war. John had a zest for life and loved his family, people, golf, skiing, tennis, sports and history.
In December 2019, John was one of seventeen WWII Vets who traveled to France, Luxembourg and Belgium to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge.
John is survived by his loving wife of 62 years, Mary (Vanites) Katsaros, his two children Laurie Katsaros Sirois and her husband Michael L. of Amesbury and Lynne (Katsaros) Miller and her husband Christian of Darien, CT. He was the loving Papou to Caroline Miller (Steven Gahl), Craig Miller, Cameron Miller (Remy Peace), Corey Miller, and grandpups Willow and Dash. He also leaves behind brother-in law James (Nancy) Vanites, sisters-in-law Theodora Lebares and Effie Katsaros as well as several nieces, nephews and numerous friends.
John was predeceased by his siblings, former HHS Principal Sotiris Katsaros, former Haverhill Mayor George Katsaros, S. Charles Katsaros, Ann Zeihl and Madeline Alphas.
Funeral Services were private with burial in Linwood Cemetery. Arrangements are by the H.L. Farmer & Sons Funeral Homes and Cremation Services, Haverhill & Bradford. To share a memory or for more information, please visit www.farmerfuneralhomes.com.
The following photo of the services was taken by Paul Sorenson. He reported that Mr. Katsaros had” full military honors, an honor guard, and a 21-gun salute, very fitting. When taps played it was a little tough.” Beverly Patton Wand also attended. She said it was “indeed a beautiful day. Taps was moving, but America the Beautiful was what got me going.”
John Katsaros, Who Escaped the Nazis in WWII, and Later Served as WHAV Sports Announcer, Dies
Haverhill’s John Katsaros, a veteran who escaped from the German Gestapo during World War II, and later became one of WHAV’s first radio announcers, has died at age 97.
Katsaros served as a waist gunner and survived a B-17 bailout in 1944 over France. He was captured by the Germans, rescued by the French underground and then began a perilous quest for freedom through France and Spain. He chronicled the adventure in his book, “Code Burgundy: The Long Escape.”
At the end of 2019, Katsaros was one of an elite group of 17 World War II veterans who traveled to France, Luxembourg and Belgium to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. Just before boarding the plane, he told WHAV about the solemn trip.
“My wife says, ‘Gee, that sounds like a good vacation.’ I said it is not a vacation. It’s an obligation,” he said at the time.
Katsaros retired from the U.S. Army Air Force as a staff sergeant.
One of WHAV’s earliest voices, Katsaros began working at the radio station during the late 1940s under the legendary Ken Ash. He went on to be a play-by-play announcer at Haverhill Hillies’ football for 27 years.
At WHAV, Katsaros said he began with Joe Azzarito, who was a spotter. “I went on to do everything from play-by-play, spotting to color,” Katsaros recalls. During those days of early local radio, he says, pioneering WHAV staff had to create their own technology. “Ash built a creative light system that allowed us to keep track of players on the field.”
Katsaros related his experiences during WHAV’s “Reunion of the Radio Stars” in 2016.
As a longtime member of Kiwanis, Katsaros participated in the service club’s 2016 Turkey Drop to raise money for charity. He told WHAV, which covered the event live,
“Well, as a Kiwanian, it was wonderful and also as a former WHAV announcer for football, it is wonderful to be with you. I’m happy to see you bringing back WHAV 100 percent for Haverhill,” he said.
Funeral arrangements had not yet been announced by news deadline.
For a Linkedin profile of Mr. Katsaros, click here.