Today, one thinks of the Coast Guard as a domestic force, primarily concerned with search, rescue, protection, and interdiction. But in World War II, it was in the thick of fighting, as a temporary arm of the United States Navy. And men like Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Leo Francis Gracie (1917-1990), aboard U.S.S. Betelgeuse (AK-28), saw action in one of the most decisive battles in the Pacific theater, for the strategically critical Guadalcanal Island in the Solomons, from late 1942 until early 1943.
Gracie, born in Provincetown to Manuel F. Gracie and Mary A. Gracie, was graduated from P.H.S. in 1935 with the stated ambition of being “successful in art.” Two grades behind him, the Class of 1937, was Irene Antoinette Patrick, whose stated ambition was “to be a telephone operator.” Gracie joined the Coast Guard in 1939 and was posted first to Station Race Point and then to Wood End Light. He and Irene were married in 1940. A year later, he shipped out on Betelgeuse, an attack cargo ship, which would take him into the Allies’ first offensive campaign in the Pacific, designed to deny Guadalcanal to the Japanese. Among Gracie’s postings after the war was as keeper (officer in charge) of the famous Boston Light on Little Brewster Island in Boston Harbor, from 1946 to 1948.
Irene and Leo bought the 12 Central Street property in 1950 from Velma M. Perry. Gracie retired from the Coast Guard eight years later and worked at the King & Fahey Funeral Home, 26 Shank Painter Road (currently the Provincetown Police Department headquarters); at the McHoul Funeral Home, 94 Harry Kemp Way; and at the Church of St. Peter the Apostle, as the sexton. Gracie belonged to the Highland Fish and Game Club, the Knights of Columbus, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He loved fly fishing and harvesting blueberries, cranberries, and beach plums. Irene died in 1998. A year later, Leo followed. Their sons, Leo E. Gracie and David L. Gracie, continue to own the house.
¶ Last updated on 27 March 2018.