He was born and raised in the former 10th Ward of Baltimore. He attended city public schools until the seventh grade, when he went to work to help support his family.
Before enlisting in the Navy, he was a mechanic for Canteen Corp.
During World War II, Mr. Canova served with the Seabees, the Navy's construction battalion, from 1943 until being discharged in 1946.
A machinist, he served with the 62nd Naval Construction Battalion, which had been sent to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to take over civilian construction of military housing, dry docks and fuel storage tanks.
Mr. Canova saw action during the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. The construction battalion built airfields on the island that were to be used in an invasion of the Japanese homeland, which became unnecessary after U.S. forces dropped atomic bombs and Japan surrendered.
For its role in the Battle of Iwo Jima, the 62nd Naval Construction Battalion received a Navy Unit Commendation for heroism.
After his discharge from the Navy, Mr. Canova resumed his career with Canteen Corp., retiring in 1998.
Mr. Canova was a longtime member of the Bakery, Confection, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, where during the 1970s, he had been a shop steward.
After suffering a stroke in the early 2000s, Mr. Canova recovered and volunteered for eight years assisting stroke victims at Good Samaritan Hospital.
He was a football fan — both professional and college — and was an "avid swing dancer," said a daughter, Theresa Canova Norton of Glen Arm.
His wife of 57 years, the former Grace Gervasi, died in 2003.
Speaking to home-schooled children last year about his wartime experiences on Iwo Jima, Mr. Canova told them: "Something carried me through. Call it God, call it what you want. And I think about, if I hadn't survived, then my children wouldn't be here today, and my grandchildren. It was meant to be."
Funeral services were held Oct. 29 at the Ruck-Towson Funeral Home.
Also surviving are a son, Michael A. Canova of Mechanicsville; another daughter, Antoinette C. Steigerwald of Lutherville; a brother, Clarence Canova of Baltimore; a sister, Betty Traver of Hudson, Fla.; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.