Joseph Benedict Prince, Sr.
Now singing lead with the choirs of heavenly angels, Joseph Benedict Prince, Sr. passed away April 7 at the William R. Courtney Texas State Veterans Home in Temple, TX. He was 97.
Known as “The Man with the Golden Voice,” Joe shared his priceless vocal talents for more than 70 years. His career began while attending Jesuit High School in his hometown of New Orleans, LA, then continued while serving his country in the U.S. Air Force’s Special Services during WWII, entertaining servicemen and women on military bases and at USO shows across the mainland and the South Pacific. After his service to his country, Joe performed in numerous Summer Time Light Opera Houston productions, while continuing to sing for many more years, enriching countless Sunday masses at Houston’s St. Anne’s and St. Vincent DePaul Catholic churches, weddings, funerals, charity galas and sporting events state-wide. Joe was never happier, though, than when he was singing the “National Anthem” and “God Bless America” at Houston Astros baseball games for more than 25 seasons. To Joe, performing those two songs was more than just “Astros singing engagements;” he felt sincerely that singing for the Astros was an honor and privilege and considered the organization’s staffs, players and the fans his second family.
Joe was a loving husband, father and grandfather. While serving his country during WWII, he met the love of his life, Lt. Hazel Thompson, an Army-Air Corps nurse. They were married at Shepard Air Base in Wichita Falls, TX, in 1943. Following their military service, Joe and Hazel made Houston their permanent home until Hazel’s untimely passing in 1984 following her retirement as a registered nurse for 40 years with the Houston Lighting & Power Company.
After moving to Houston, Joe studied voice at the Houston Conservatory of Music for three years. He then started working at Houston’s prestigious Shamrock Hotel as a bellboy, and in the accounting office. He was also a featured vocalist on the hotel’s “Saturday Night at the Shamrock” nation-wide radio show, performing with the likes of Tommy Dorsey’s and Clyde Thornhill’s dance bands. Joe joined the Humble (Exxon) Credit Union in 1953, where he was a cashier, then loan officer until his retirement in 1983. When he wasn’t working or singing, Joe’s favorite hobby was playing golf, and was good enough to score TWO holes-in-one AFTER the age of 70!
Joe was preceded in death by his parents, his beloved wife, Hazel; his loving son, Joe, Jr. precious granddaughter Kimberly Watson, and son-in-law, Jim Watson. Also predeceasing him were his brothers, Jimmy, Louie, and Charlie, and sisters, Ethel, Francis and Theresa.
He is survived by his daughters, Anita Watson of Bryan, TX, and Mary Jo Prince, of College Station, TX. Also surviving Joe are his grandson, Joe Prince, III, nieces and nephews, Markanne and James Ryan of Houston, TX, Carolyn Ann and Wayne Landwerlin and Joanne and Raymond Schmidt, all of New Orleans, LA, and numerous great and great-great nieces and nephews.
Friends and family are invited to Joe’s “Celebration of Life” memorial service at 2:30 in the afternoon on Sunday, May 15 at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, 217 West 26th Street, Bryan, TX, 77806. A reception in the church’s Parish Hall follows. At a later date, family and friends will gather for final inurnment services at Houston’s National Cemetery, 10410 Veterans Memorial Dr., Houston, TX 77038.
Anita and Mary Jo wish to extend a special thanks to the nurses, staff and residents of the William R. Courtney Texas State V.A. Home and the staff and counselors of Compassus Hospice Care in Temple for the attention, compassion, and respect with which they cared for Daddy the last two years, enriching his quality of life in the way he, and other resident veterans, truly deserve. Thanks and appreciations are also extended to the outpouring of prayers, condolences and sentiments from friends near and far, especially from those countless Astros associates and fans who shared their fond memories and accolades.
In lieu of customary remembrances, the family requests with gratitude that memorial contributions in Joe’s name be directed to either of the following organizations: Scotty’s House Child Advocacy Center, 2424 Kent St., Bryan, TX, 77803; Hospice Brazos Valley, 502 W. 26th Street Bryan, TX 77803; the Astros Foundation c/o Minute Maid Park; 501 Crawford St., Houston, TX, 77002; or St. Andrews Episcopal Church Foundation, 217 West 26th Street, Bryan, TX, 77806.