Joseph Kazickas, a summer resident of East Hampton for 55 years, died of kidney failure on July 9 at his home on Egypt Lane. Mr. Kazickas, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, was 96 years old.
His entire life was proof that truth can be more dramatic, and more colorful, than fiction. Raised in Lithuania, he and his wife, the former Alexandra Kalvenas, were resistance fighters against the Nazis during World War II. With their infant daughter, Jurate, they were forced to flee in 1944 when Soviet troops occupied the country. After three years in camps for displaced persons in Germany, they immigrated to the United States, where he earned a Ph.D. in economics at Yale in less than four years.
Mr. Kazickas remained hopeful that his country would one day be liberated, and his wish was granted in 1990 when Lithuania’s parliament declared its independence.
Much of his philanthropy was directed toward that country, where he established a foundation to support educational, social, and cultural causes. The nation honored him in return with its highest civilian awards.
In 2006, at the age of 88, he published his autobiography, “Odyssey of Hope: The Story of a Lithuanian Immigrant’s Escape From Communism to Freedom in America and the Return to His Beloved Homeland.”
Mr. Kazickas was born on April 16, 1918, in Ciornaya Padina, Russia, where his ancestors had fled after being banished by a czar from Lithuania. His parents were Michael Kazickas and the former Katerina Sereicikas. The family returned to Lithuania four years later. His marriage took place on Aug. 15, 1941; his wife died in 2011.
According to his family, Mr. Kazickas believed luck played a big part in his success, though smarts might be closer to the truth. He earned his first dollar playing poker on a ship to New York, bought land in East Hampton in the 1950s when most of it was planted in potatoes, not houses, and invested in Lithuania’s cellphone industry in its infancy. His business ventures included coal, steel, orange groves, lamps, and laundromats.
Among his many interests, he enjoyed golfing at the Maidstone Club, where he was a longtime member; traveling, hunting, gardening, fine wine, and, most of all, his family. Mr. Kazickas had a year-round home in Greenwich, Conn., and a winter residence on Cat Cay in the Bahamas, where he tended an abundant tropical fruit orchard.
“My father was a comforting spirit and a delight to all who knew him,” said his daughter. “He was kind, gentle, and saw goodness everywhere and expressed gratitude to God for the bounty we are all given. Our family would like to thank everyone in East Hampton, the place he and Alexandra loved dearly, for their outpouring of love and support during these very sorrowful days.”
In addition to Jurate Kazickas, who lives in New York City, Mr. Kazickas leaves three sons, Joseph of Amagansett, Michael of Demarest, N.J., and John of Sands Point. Eleven grandchildren survive as well. A fourth son, Alexander, died in 1976.
Funeral services were held on Monday at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in East Hampton, of which he was a member. Msgr. Donald Hanson officiated. Burial followed at the church cemetery on Cedar Street, East Hampton.
The family has suggested memorial contributions to the Lithuanian Foundation, 14911 127th Street, Lemont, Ill. 60439.