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James V. "Jim" Kiernan

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James "Jim" V. Kiernan, 92, longtime Jacksonville resident and former Marine, passed away on November 19, 2012, in Allentown, Pa.

Born in Queens NY, on Dec. 13, 1919, Jim relocated to North Carolina with his wife, Evelyn, in the early 1940s during World War II.

The young couple's first stop in the area was Atlantic, Carteret County, the site of a Marine Corps air station and training facility during the war. Their house was little more than a storage shed, and Jim often recounted his shock at the heat, humidity and terrifyingly large mosquitoes that sent him sprinting the distance from house to car each morning.

In 1944 they settled in Jacksonville, their home for the next six decades. Jim and Evelyn founded their family business, first named The Suzal Florist and later Flowers By Kiernan. Jim was discharged from the Marines as a gunnery sergeant in 1954 serving during WW II and the Korean War.

A devout Catholic of Irish and Italian heritage, Jim was instrumental in establishing the church in southeastern North Carolina and frequently offered his family's home (and couch) to the young missionary clergymen who roamed the state in the 1950s and 60s. Priests like Father John Paul Byron, Father Vincent Mahoney and Father John Harper became some of the family's closest friends, and Jim and Evelyn's modest house on River Road served as an informal rectory for Jacksonville's nascent Catholic community.

A relatively quiet homebody next to his gregarious wife, Jim still managed to find his place in Jacksonville life, participating in the Knights of Columbus and serving as president of the Chamber of Commerce.

He spoke with a thick New York accent that decades of living in the South failed to erode, and he had a dry sense of humor that was often betrayed by a winking eye.

Family members recall Jim's belief in social justice and equality, which led him to raise colorblind children in Jacksonville during an era marred by deep racism. He was honest to the point of naiveté and occasionally fell prey to the unscrupulous, being more inclined to help those who didn't need it than to refuse help to those who did.

Grandchildren vividly remember Jim's fondness for all animals great and small, wild or domesticated. His house was the kingdom of well-fed dogs and cats; obese squirrels and pigeons reclined on the fence in the front yard while bread bags draped from the cypress trees out back like Spanish moss, left there by a family of raccoons that Jim had taken to feeding. Grandsons who chased and caught green lizards on the patio were watched like a hawk, lest they harm the creatures. His love and deep respect for animals and the treatment of animals continues on with his own children and grandchildren to this day.

Jim and Evelyn (passed in 2006) finally left Jacksonville in 2005, moving to Allentown with their daughter, Laurie, who assumed caretaking responsibilities. Leaving the caregiving of Rhonda in Jacksonville, we were blessed to have found Tina, his caregiver in Allentown. With his son-in-law Dan and with Tina's unending love, care and support, our father "Jim" lived a wonderful life. To us, his family, almost 93 years of "Dad" was not enough time for such a generous heart! Our parents' doors were always open and all were welcomed in!

Survivors: Daughters: Suzie loving wife of Len of Jacksonville, Fla., Marianne Vallance wife of Charles of Indian Harbour Beach, Fla., Laurie Boracchia Wuchter wife of Daniel Wuchter Sr. of Allentown, Pa.; sons, Michael husband of Cindy of Raleigh, James (Patrick) husband of Tamara of Siler City. Grandchildren: Sean, Susan, Catherine, Paul, Anna, Eddie, Patrick, Austin, Caleb, Olivia, Micka, Madison, Samuel, Ashley and Isabella; four great grandchildren. He was predeceased by his grandson Peter V. Kiernan Spengler who passed in 2005.

Services: A private memorial service will be given at Jacksonville's Infant of Prague Catholic Parish on Nov. 28 at 11 a.m., with the funeral to follow at 12:45 p.m. at St. Mildred Catholic Church, 653 Old Hammock Road, Swansboro. Arrangements by Jones Funeral Home, Jacksonville.

Contributions: Mountain View Horse Rescue, 4508 Winding Road, New Tripoli, PA 18066 or Infant of Prague Church, 205 Chaney Ave., Jacksonville, NC 28540.

Published in Jacksonville Daily News from Nov. 24 to Nov. 27, 2012
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