Also known as: Belle
Born at 9:55am in the Morning.
[An account of her life written by Anne Patrice Clarke, Staff Writer, Clay Today Newspaper on Friday May 12, 1989 reads:]
"Green Cove matriarch saw city grow"
GREEN COVE SPRINGS - In the grand tradition of Mother's Day, Green Cove Springs might well recognize its own mother - Belle Lazette - whos birthday falls on Mother's Day this year.
Mrs. Lazette, referred to by most as Aunt Mommie, has no children of her own but could just as well be called mother of Green Cove Springs with the history that 94 years have brought.
"I was chosen by God to bury my whole family." Mrs. Lazette said. "God has chosen me to outlive them and I go to his house each day to thank him."
Mrs. Lazette is reminiscent of the original mother of Mother's Day, Anna Reeves Jarvis, who also prayed endlessly, according to a West Virginia visitors guide, in a church. In fact the church in which Jarvis devoted much of her life, Andrews Methodist Church, is the home of the International Mother's Day Shrine.
Belle Canova Lazette's father, Philip Canova, a general merchantile store owner, funded the building of the first Catholic Church in Green Cove Springs - Sacred Heart, which today stands much larger than the original yet serves the same purpose for Mrs. Lazette - home to her music and her prayer.
Each morning Mrs. Lazette attends church and each Sunday morning she plays the organ for mass.
The piano, Mrs. Lazette said, kept her away from high school and later put her back into school.
When Mrs. Lazette was about 13, she studied music under her Aunt Nina, a professional music teacher in Jacksonville. Today, the trip to Jacksonville would take about 45 minutes but when she was a child, the two-way trip took an entire day - four hours to get across the river by boat and on the horse and buggy to her aunt's home and the same for the trip back.
Mrs. Lazette made the trip once a week for four years. Before Mrs. Lazette could reach the pedals of the organ, she played for services at the Catholic Church.
"Can you imagine a child making that trip now." Mrs. Lazette says. "They would never spend an entire Saturday taking one music lesson."
The lessons paid off, at 15, she was offered her first job as a pianist. Mrs. Lazette would play piano, lunch and dinner music, for two years at the Qui Si Sana Hotel, now known as Carey's Antiques in Green Cove Springs.
The highlight of her career with the three-piece orchestra was when a well-known singer in those years, a Mr. Williams, asked Mrs. Lazette to acompany him on the piano at the hotel.
In her late teens, Mrs. Lazette began teaching music in her home studio, charging her first pupil 25 cents for lessons.
With the war playing havoc on her lovelife, she decided to dedicate much of her life to music. She moved to Cross City teaching in the high school while she obtained her diploma which would have enabled her to attend the Jacksonville School of Music. But her parents in Green Cove Springs were begiming old, Mrs. Lazette moved back home to tend to them.
Her father closed the merchant store located on Palmetto and Spring Streets and let Mrs. Lazette turn it into a music studio. With two grand pianos and an organ, Mrs. Lazette began to study and teach music again. During this time, Mrs. Lazette organized and established the only Federated Music Club in Green Cove Springs.
During the "Great Depression", Mrs. Lazette worked as a surpervisor of a nursery school for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) at Doctor's Inlet in the old store building at the Crossroads.
Mrs Lazette's sister Frances was the school nurse and together they provided lavish meals for the children. So much food in fact, that Mrs. Lazette says they began "food fights".
Mrs. Lazette's brothers worked with their father who had purchased the Clay County Crescent newspaper.
"It wasn't easy to go to college back then," Mrs. Lazette contends. "There was no transportation and no colleges to go to so my father taught them the printing business."
Her brothers went on to work for newspapers in the New York area, only returning to Green Cove Springs in their retirement.
During World War II, Mrs. Lazette volunteered to help the United Serviceman's Organization (USO) located across the street from her studio on Palmetto Street.
The USO canteens were set up to furnish recreation for servicemen stationed in nearby military instalations. Mrs. Lazette entertained the serviceman daily with her music. And it was here that 51-year-old Mrs. Lazette meet her second husband, 62-year-old Clarence Lazette, the director of the USO.
The Lazettes built a home next to Mrs. Lazette's old studio. The couple spent 30 years of marriage in the home, equpiped with an office and livingroom music studio.
Today, Mrs. Lazette lives in the same home and her grandneice's family lives in Mrs. Lazette's old music studio next door.
"I am satisfied with my little humble living. I don't crave fancy things, for me this type of living is more than I ever dreamed for," Mrs. Lazette says.
"I remember when the house was wired (for electricity) by Mr. Ed Wiggins, the man who was interested in the Rural Electric Company in Keystone Heights," Mrs. Lazette explained.
Mrs. Lazette has seen Green Cove Springs grow and flourish into the city it is today. Mrs. Lazette says she is proud to watch the developments in the area like any mother would be.
At 94, Mrs. Lazette is in good health. She drives to the store, takes care of bills, tends to back yard plants, and has time to entertain friends and attend church regularily.
In the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, there is a stained glass window in rememberance of her father's effort with the church.
"Back then priests were not able to come down to sermon each day. So the community would ring my father's bell He would read scriptures to the folks and report to the priest," she said.
Mrs. Lazette herself can be remembered for her efforts in establishing the only federated music club ever in Green Cove Springs.
[An account of her life written by Elaine Williamson for the local paper when Belle died reads:]
"Belle Canova Lazette: A Century of Living"
She missed her 100th birthday by only two months and when Belle Canova Lazette died on March 5, 1995 her life was already the kind of which legends are made. She will always be a part of the history and folklore of Green Cove Springs.
Laura Belle and her twin sister, Sydney, were born in Green Cove Springs on May 14, 1895 to Phillip John Canova, Sr. and his wife, Frances. They also were parents of two boys, Phillip, Jr. and Frank.
Their father had a store on the corner of Spring St. and Palmetto Ave. The building still stands and was home to her late Uncle Phil and his wife. Living in this same house at the present time are Belle's niece, Betty Miller, and Betty's daughter and son-in-law, Betty and Bob Drake. Belle loved music and the piano in particular for which she had a great talent. When she was just 12 years old she would take the river steamer to Jacksonville every Saturday where she would take piano lessons, returning by boat late the same day. She did this for many years and became an accomplished piano teacher in her own home town with primising students in the area.
As a young girl she played piano in the elegant hotels in Green Cove Springs during the tourist era. She loved the grand ballrooms of that time with the dancing of happy people and admired the finery of the northern visitors who came to town for the winter season.
Belle attended school at Central School on Pine St. where Charlie Merrill had also received his early education.
Belle was organist at Sacred Heart Catholic Church as well as choir director for years. Even after giving up choir directing, she continued to play the organ until recent years. A devout Catholic, she attended Mass every day. She always walked to the church, which was less than two blocks away, until traffic increased so much on Ferris St. she could not get across on foot. So she drive her car. Her driving was another of her true life adventures in Green Cove Springs and when she was 98 years old she passed her driver's license examination with flying colors
As she left that day, she told the examiners, "See you in six years
Belle was in good health and took good care of herself. She outlived her twin sister by many years. Two cataract operations gave her 20/20 vision. In fact, she had driven her car ot the store to get groceries that February day just last year when she fell and broke her hip while trying to close the garage door. She had broken a hip several years earlier which healed perfectly. This time it was not so easy and she was confined to a nursing home.
As a very young woman Belle had married Jack Davis who was killed in an accident. As well as teaching piano, she worked with the U.S.O. and was a kindergarten teacher. Later in life she married Clarence Lazette and they had a home and office on Spring St. behind the family store/home.
Belle worked with her husband in his real estate business, still playing the organ and active in her church and community. She had no children of her own, but adored her nieces and nephews and doted on each new generation of babies.
In the evening in later years, Belle would turn on the TV at exactly 7 p.m. and watch her favorite shows, "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy". It kept her mind as sharp as a tack. Belle had a great wit and liked to play little pranks. She enjoyed life and passed that trait on to her relatives.
Survivors include nieces and nephews: Betty Canova Miller, Jude Canova, Frank Canova, Jr., the Rev. Canon Betty Drake, Canova Anderson Blake, Daniel Canova, Jude T. Canova, Jr., Edwin Morris Kendall, Sue Ann Kendall-Murtagh, and Cameron Canova.
A Funeral Mass was held at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Green Cove Springs, at 11a.m. Wednesday, March 8. Interment was in Hickory Grove Cemetery.