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James Moynihan Took First, Last Breaths on Marine Corps Birthday

James Moynihan, 70, battle weary from various illnesses, let go of this world on his favorite day.

James Moynihan in his Marine Corps dress blues. Courtesy photo.
James Moynihan in his Marine Corps dress blues. Courtesy photo.

James Moynihan always believed he was born to be a Marine. 

Fitting, then, that he came into this world on Nov. 10, 1943, the Marine Corps Birthday, and left it exactly 70 years later.

"Being a Marine meant everything to him. So much, that I believe he knew that he was about to die, and hung on until today," said Anthony Danieli, Moynihan's grandson, just hours after learning his grandfather had let go of this life Sunday, on the birthday he proudly shared with the U.S. Marine Corps.

James Moynihan was born in Everett, Mass., and became a Marine at the age of 19, serving from Feb. 23, 1962 until Feb. 22, 1967. 

He also served in the Army, from Aug. 26, 1974 to March 25, 1978, according to paperwork Danieli found in his grandfather's apartment.

"I honestly don't know a lot about his service – it was way before my time, but over the years my grandfather would tell me stories about his adventures all over the world," Danieli said.

Moynihan had become disabled over the years, having lost a leg to disease, and surviving major heart surgery two years ago. His other leg was starting to fail, Danieli said, and his grandfather, who lived with a lot of pain, was was growing weary of the fight.

"My grandfather also battled alcohol off and on for most of his life, which contributed to some of his health issues," said Danieli, 27, of Nashua. "He hadn't been feeling well the past few days, but we didn't expect to lose him so quickly. We believe his heart just gave out."

Danieli said everyone who knew his grandfather knew of his proud alignment with the Marine Corps, even after Danieli moved Moynihan to Nashua from Massachusetts to help care for him.

"He really felt born to be a Marine, big time. He always had his Marine hat on, people who'd see him on his scooter riding around in the area of Somerset Plaza at Exit 8 recognized him from the flags on his scooter, and the Marine patch he wore," Danieli said.

Moynihan had been in and out of VA hospitals in Massachusetts, sometimes sharing space with young injured war veterans. 

"When he was living at the VA in Bedford, Mass., he loved talking to the younger guys who had just been injured in Afghanistan. He'd show them he only had one leg, and was big on talking about how God helped him. His faith and being a Marine were the two biggest things in his life," Danieli said. 

"There was one younger guy – I wish I had his name – who had lost part of an arm in the war, and my grandfather told him not to give up. I heard he went back to work at a command post, and that they credit my grandfather with inspiring him," Danieli said. 

He said Moynihan also organized AA groups for fellow veterans over the years, combining his faith in God with his struggle against the bottle in support of those who, like Moynihan, never wanted to surrender to that particular battle.

"As much as he went through with his battle with alcohol, my grandfather lived a good life. Sometimes we'd just sit for hours and he'd talk to me about his experiences in Panama or Brazil or Spain," Danali said. 

Danieli said his mom, Cheryl Nunn, was preparing a little birthday gathering for Sunday night for her dad and her son – Danieli turned 27 on Nov. 9, and the two often celebrated their birthdays together. 

"My mom had gone over there Sunday morning to tell him about the party, she found him dead in his wheelchair," Danieli said.

"For me, it's like a blow to the chest. For the past 10 years of my life I've been helping take care of him, and these last few years we got much closer – we even lived together for a time. Two weeks ago my fiancée lost her dad and my grandfather got her a little urn necklace to hold some of his ashes. It meant a lot to her," Danieli said.

Due to his failing health, Moynihan wasn't able to make it down to Nashua's annual Veterans Day parades since moving here.

"When I was young, he was living in Nashua for a while and he was always at the parades," Danieli said.  Even though his grandfather hadn't been well enough to attend, he was always there in spirit.

Danieli said he will miss his grandfather terribly, but accepts that he was ready to go – especially given the timing.

"He was ready for death – he'd lost his wife, my grandmother, and being in the wheelchair all the time he was getting progressively worse. Before moving here, his life in Brockton, [Mass.] was tough – he'd been hit by a drunk driver in his scooter and broke his hips. I feel like in some ways he was slowly falling apart, and more than ever, he just wanted to be with my grandmother in heaven," Danieli said.

"The fact that he died on his birthday, given all it meant to him, seems like it was meant to be," Danieli said.

James Moynihan was born in Everett, Mass., on Nov. 10, 1943 and died Nov. 10, 2013 in Nashua. He lived his life the best he could, always trying to live up to the proud heritage of the U.S. Marine Corps. In life he loved God, the Catholic church, his wife, Joan Moynihan, who preceded him in death, his family and was proud of his service to his country. 

He is survived by his daughter, Cheryl Nunn of Manchester, his son, Michael Nunn of Saugus, Mass., his grandson, Anthony Danieli of Nashua.

Tammy Smith November 11, 2013 at 05:54 PM
May God carry you to peace to protect the pearly gates as all Marines do. Semper Fi Marine!
Apljak November 11, 2013 at 07:43 PM
May God rest your soul! Thanks to you and your family for your service and sacrifice!
Michael Wood November 12, 2013 at 05:50 AM
A fitting end, one all of us who served would like, I think. Once a Marine, always a Marine, God Speed Moynihan.
Craig Hartman November 12, 2013 at 10:13 AM
Semper Fi Brother. My father was a Marine as well, SSgt Charles Hartman, WWII and Korea. Once a Marine, always a Marine. Probably guarding the Gates of Heaven now. Oohrah, you make us proud!
Kalani Dailey White December 12, 2013 at 05:01 PM
Craig Hartman, we might be related. I, too, was related to a Charles Hartman who was in WWII and Korea. Did your father have a sister named Evelyn? Charles Hartman would be my great uncle.

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