The city’s Veterans’ Services office is looking for volunteers to attend the funeral of a local World War II veteran who left behind no surviving family.
James McCue, 97, died Thursday at Cedar View Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Methuen. His wife, Margaret, died before him, leaving no family to attend the veteran’s memorial, scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 14 at 1 p.m.
While preparing his funeral at Bellevue Cemetery with full military honors, Lawrence Veterans’ Service Director Jaime Melendez and secretary Dawna Mackland-Rivera put out the call for residents, veterans and other community members to come honor McCue’s life and service.
“There’s no doubt that this gentleman was part of all those who helped liberate France and really made a difference,” said state Secretary of Veterans Affairs Francisco Urena. “We just wanted to make sure this gentleman gets remembered, in a sense, and his service. It mattered to all of us.”
Born and raised in Lawrence, McCue enlisted from his home at 43 Lexington St. in November 1943. He spent two years overseas, where he participated in five major battles in an anti-aircraft artillery unit. McCue even landed in Normandy during D-Day in 1944, when Allied forces invaded northern France, Urena said.
In December 1945, McCue returned home to Lawrence, just in time for Christmas, Melendez said.
“His house is just half a block from my mom’s house, where I was welcomed home after coming home from Iraq,” Urena, a Lawrence native, said. “We can expand upon what that generation meant. They were selfless, they served honorably, they liberated several countries … and set the example for what it was to be a veteran upon returning to the United States.”
Melendez said he has heard from several nearby veterans organizations that they plan to attend on Thursday. Daniel Cotnoir, a Lawrence Marine veteran, said Mackland-Rivera asked him to spread the word of McCue’s funeral services through his extensive network of Merrimack Valley veterans.
“I think I’ve had, like, 500 people on my Facebook page,” Cotnoir said. As of Tuesday afternoon, the post he was referring to had nearly 160 comments and had been shared more than 3,700 times.
“It might be quite the group that I’ve acquired at this point,” Cotnoir said.
McCue’s services will be held at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 14 at the veterans lot near the reservoir in Bellevue Cemetery, 170 May St., Lawrence.
“There will be a time, not too long from now, unfortunately, when there will be no World War II veterans among us, and this is a teaching moment for younger generations — and even for those among us — to say and remember what we did for those veterans who at one point needed to be remembered,” Urena said.
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