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GEAGHAN, John M. Decorated World War II U.S. Army Veteran and Chevalier of the Legion of Honor of the French Republic, died April 17. A resident of Menlo Park, he was 89. His death was due to complications of heart disease. Mr. Geaghan was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by decree of the President of the French Republic, Mr. Nicholas Sarkozy, in 2009. As explained by L'Ambassadeur to the United States, Pierre Vimont, in a letter to Mr. Geaghan: "The Legion of Honor was created by Napolean in 1802 to acknowledge services rendered to France by persons of great merit". He wrote, "This award testifies to the President of the French Republic's high esteem for your merits and accomplishments. In particular, it is a sign of France's true and unforgettable gratitude and appreciation for your personal, precious contribution to the United States' decisive role in the liberation of our country during World War II". Mr. Geaghan was presented the medal by then consul general of France, Pierre-Francois Mourier, in 2011 during a private ceremony with his family in San Francisco. The citation read: "…It is of course an honor to come across a personality such as yours, dear Mr. Geaghan, an exceptional human being, both because of your extraordinary feats of bravery during the war, and also because of your long and successful career…Your journey has been exemplary…You were yourself severely wounded in March 1945 near to Serrig (Sarre), but you withdrew from the battalion only for a few weeks, and then came back to fight with your comrades". Mr. Geaghan, the first born American in his family, was raised in Bangor, Maine. Valedictorian at John Bapst High School, he earned varsity letters in football, track and baseball. He was awarded a scholarship to attend the Millard Military School in Washington, D.C. After completing the year, he enlisted in the 101st Army Yankee Division and served as a combat infantry platoon sergeant in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. Under General Patton, he served in the Battle of the Bulge. His heroism won awards including: the Silver Star; a Bronze Star medal, a European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign medal and two purple hearts, among others. As the citation was written in 1945, for "heroic achievement in connection with military operations against an armed enemy near Sarre-Union, France on 3 December 1944": "As he proceeded along a road to accomplish his mission, he observed a friendly vehicle loaded with much-needed ammunition coming up another road, separated by one hundred and fifty yards of open terrain from his own position. The driver of the vehicle was apparently unaware that the building in Sarre-Union formerly used as an ammunition dump was at the moment in enemy hands, and that at the road junction directly ahead of his vehicle lay a concealed enemy Mark V tank. With utter disregard for his own safety, Staff Sergeant Geaghan ran across the intervening exposed terrain under hostile machine gun fire and stopped the driver just one hundred yards before the hidden enemy tank. At this point the enemy armored vehicle opened fire and wounded the driver. Despite the enemy tank fire, Geaghan successfully managed the escape of both driver and vehicle from the dangerous position. His courage under fire, strong initiative and unusual devotion to duty reflect the highest credit upon Staff Sergeant Geaghan and the armed forced of the United States". Following his service, and recovery from injuries, he graduated from Boston College in 1949 and Harvard Law School, Class of 1952. He always enjoyed the practice of law and was highly principled in his daily life. He practiced admiralty law for several years in Boston, and then joined Raytheon Company, where he served as Deputy General Counsel. He practiced a wide spectrum of corporate law in the Boston area for 38 years, from submarine manufacturers to consumer aircraft, from consumer appliances to installations of the first electronic airlines reservation systems. He was a member of the bar in five states. He was active in, and appointed to serve on committees of the American Arbitration Association, local and national bar associations. He and his wife Maureen were residents of Lexington, MA for nearly 50 years. "My father rarely spoke of his experiences in the war", his daughter commented. "He had an amazing appreciation of his life and never forgot that most of his friends and fellow soldiers had died in battle. He has been described by others as one of the happiest people they have ever met, which is our experience with him as husband to my mother, father, brother to his 5 siblings and grandfather to four. His mind, his memory and his selflessness were extraordinary". Mr. Geaghan is survived by his wife of 60 years, Maureen Geaghan; a daughter Dr. Sharon Markham Geaghan, a professor at Stanford University School of Medicine; her husband David Breiner; four grandchildren, Charlotte, Meredith, Julia and Beatrix Geaghan-Breiner, all of Menlo Park, CA; and a sister, Catherine Meyers of Wilton, CT. Epitaph on my Ever Honoured Father by Robert Burns: O YE whose cheek the tear of pity stains, Draw near with pious rev'rence, and attend! Here lie the loving husband's dear remains, The tender father, and the gen'rous friend; The pitying heart that felt for human woe, The dauntless heart that fear'd no human pride; The friend of man- to vice alone a foe; For ev'n his failings lean'd to virtue's side. Condolences may be sent to Maureen and Sharon Geaghan, 350 Sharon Park Dr, T26, Menlo Park, CA 94025. Private services were already held.
Published in The Boston Globe on June 16, 2013
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