Joseph Z. Dawson Dies at the Age of 93
Dawson, a career educator who served as the first principal of Carmel High School, died on May12 at the age of 93, with his family at his bedside.
Over the years Dawson touched the lives of tens of thousands of young people throughout Putnam County.
“When I reflect on my career, no one came close to Mr. Dawson,” said CHS graduate Terry Intrary of Kent. Intrary, a retired police officer, former member of the Carmel Board of Education, past Putnam County legislator, and current Inspector General for the Putnam Sheriff’s Department, recalled Dawson as “one of the greatest men I have known. He was fair, kind, respectful, and always willing to help.”
Dawson was born in New Jersey on December 2, 1916. He was the salutatorian of his class from Mt. Kisco High School in 1936, where he excelled in football, basketball, and baseball. Dawson also achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.
He graduated from Springfield College in 1940 and a year later became athletic director at Carmel High School. That same year he married his high school sweetheart, Rose Lieto.
In 1943, Dawson volunteered for the Air Force and became a navigator on B-17s and B-29s. He became an instructor of navigation as World War II ended and left active duty in 1946, retiring as a captain.
Dawson also received his Master’s Degree in Administration from New York University in 1946.
Dawson returned to Carmel High School as a science teacher and assistant principal. He became principal in 1951—a position he held until 1973, when he was appointed Carmel Superintendent of Schools before retiring two years later.
Dawson was also deeply involved in his community. He was a charter member of the Carmel Rotary, serving as its president in 1968. Dawson was also a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow in recognition of his lifelong service to the community.
Rotarian Al Lotrecchiano remembered Dawson as a man who “gave it his all. Joe was my man. He was a friend to everyone. People respected Joe because he was sincere, a great listener and always made sense. Another chapter in Putnam’s proud history has closed with Joe’s passing.”
Lotrecchiano recalled the days when he and Dawson bowled together: “Each week we had a frame when if a strike was scored, the bowler failing to knock down all the pins would buy the others on the team a glass of beer. Joe and I always had ice cream. That’s the kind of guy he was. Vanilla, by the way, was Joe’s favorite.”
Dawson served as secretary of the Carmel Fire Department for 10 years and was a member of the executive committee of the NY State Secondary Principals Association.
Dawson and his late wife of 56 years were blessed with three children— Linda Southard of Carmel, Robert of Maryland, and Debbie Dawson of Manhattan. In addition to the children, grandchildren—Brett, Robyn, Allison, Lindsay, Cassie, Laura, Chase, and Rian—survive along with one greatgrandchild— Jake Dawson Southard. A sister, Jean of Florida, also survives.
Ray Southard described his fatherin law as “a man of many talents and interests. He was my closest friend. Joe never rushed to judgment. He was a family man first and foremost, but his love for his community and its educational system was extremely important to him. Joe will be missed. Those of us who were blessed to have been touched by this legend are better people today.”
Retired Carmel teacher and professional photographer Joseph Minella of Pawling recalled Dawson’s photo genius: “He was a master behind the lens and loved taking sports photos. Joe even developed his own work back then which was an art in itself. I never heard anyone say anything negative about Joe. He has left quite a mark on the greater Carmel community.”
In his later years, Dawson was a resident of the Plaza at Clover Lake Senior Residence in Patterson and the Putnam Ridge Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Southeast, where he continued to enjoy life and make friends.
Hundreds of family, friends and community members paid their respects to the Dawson family at a wake Sunday at the Cargain Funeral Home in Carmel. A mass that celebrated Dawson’s life took place Monday at St. James Church in Carmel. Following the service Dawson was laid to rest at St. Francis Cemetery in Mt. Kisco.
The family has requested those wishing to make a donation in Dawson’s memory do so by sending a check to the Joseph Z. Dawson Scholarship Fund at Carmel High School, Carmel, NY 10512.