William V. (Bill) Lazetich was born Oct. 16, 1916, to Peter and Mary Lazetich. One of nine children, he grew up on the family dairy farm in Anaconda. He attended Lost Creek School and Anaconda High where he played basketball on the State Championship “Wonder Team” and received a scholarship to the University of Montana in Missoula.
Bill was the first junior in U of M history to win the coveted Grizzly Cup, the award given to the student with the highest all-around excellence in athletics, scholarship and outstanding service to the University. He was one of the few Grizzly athletes to earn nine varsity letters in three sports. Upon graduation, Bill played professional football for the Cleveland Rams and was later inducted into the U of M Athletic Hall of Fame.
During World War II, Bill served in the Pacific and saw extensive action with the highly decorated First Marine Raider Battalion. He rose to the rank of Captain and was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds suffered in Okinawa. Upon recovery, he rejoined his troops and on Aug. 30, 1945, and he became one of the first Americans to set foot in a defeated Japan.
When Bill returned to Montana to teach and coach, he met the real ‘love of his life,’ Daisy Pekich. They were married on July 20, 1947, and celebrated fifty-five great years and four children. They enjoyed more than thirty years of teaching and coaching at Billings Senior High, three state championships (Football 1947, Basketball 1960 and 1967), AA Coach of the Year, and induction into the Montana High School Coach’s Hall of Fame. In retirement, ‘Marshall’ Bill “worked” for Pro Paul Allen at the Yellowstone Country Club…and Daisy enjoyed every moment.
Bill was preceded in death by his wife Daisy; his parents; brothers and sisters. He is survived by his daughter Sandra (Mel) Wattula, Andy (Camila) Wattula and Charlie; son Pete (Cindy) Lazetich, Johnno (Jamie) Lazetich, Nina (Luke) Hammerness; daughter Karen (Mike) Moses, Brandy (Patrick) Straub, Lindsey (Stephen) Guccione and Tymer; and daughter Maria (Jim) Kiplinger, Maddie and Will.
Gentleman, Coach, Husband, Father, Grandfather, and Great-grandfather… Bill passed away on Nov. 18, 2009.
Our Hearts to Bob Zupan…the best coach and friend anyone could ask for…by Dad’s side on the bench in basketball and life…win or lose…good days and bad…you made every team a “Wonder Team” and every day a “Wonder Day.”
Special Thanks to Dr. Steve Gerstner and to the St. John’s Powers Cottage “Wonder Team” for their extraordinary care and caring given Dad and our entire family. God Bless Chiemi, Jaylene, Faith, Stacey, Jackie, Angie, Megan, Felicia, Tara, Kathryn, Talitha, Chad, and Vicki.
Celebration of Life Service will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 24, at 1 p.m., Kathy Lillis Chapel, 2429 Mission Way in Billings. Memorials may be made to the Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools, 415 N 30th, Billings MT 59101 or charity of choice.
Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary has charge of arrangements.