James Morgan Mooney died on May 31. He had three children with his wife DeeDee, one bonus child in his niece my beautiful friend Regina, and eight grandchildren, who mostly called him Pop. When Regina was an infant, her mother Lorraine left her husband and went home to Bridgeport, Connecticut where she was welcomed by her brother Jim and DeeDee, themselves practically newlyweds. Regina in essence became Jim’s first child.
When I met Uncle Jim, at Regina’s wedding, he immediately dubbed me “Irish,” as in “Hey, Irish!” and I vaguely remember Jameson’s being introduced at some point. The next time I saw Uncle Jim was when Regina’s mother died unexpectedly and far too young. It was hard to watch this bear of a man grieve for his only sister.
Uncle Jim was bigger than life. He was a stereotypical Irish cop and the patriarch of a big boisterous family. He began his career as a Bridgeport police officer, became a CT State Trooper and rose to the rank of Captain. He also served as the head of security for the University of Bridgeport. He devoted much of his life in service to the town of Newtown including as Selectman, serving on the Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Association, and as chief of the Ambulance Corps of Volunteers. The wake was crowded with representatives from each.
I went to the Mooney home on Partridge Lane in Newtown between the visiting hours at the funeral home. DeeDee told me that during the first session, people kept commenting to her that this was a “real Irish wake.” She became a little concerned after the third person mentioned it, that perhaps they may have been too loud.
Uncle Jim’s funeral was at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church. I learned at the service that he had moved his family to Newtown from Bridgeport, where he had grown up, because he wanted a better environment for his children. The lead celebrant at the mass was St. Rose’s pastor Msgr. Robert Weiss, who was clearly a dear friend of the family. Father Bob they called him. He called Uncle Jim Jim. Not James. It was Jim from the start of the service.
Katie, the youngest of Jim’s children spoke, surrounded by her siblings. The oldest grandchild spoke, surrounded by his cousins. The remarks were a perfect blend of laughter and tears. And there were a lot of both. I think it was the loveliest funeral I have ever attended.
Newtown is a beautiful small New England town. Big old trees, expansive front lawns, church spires and a glorious green called the Ram Pasture. The horror of what happened at Sandy Hook, a neighborhood of Newtown, was never far from my thoughts while I was there. It is almost impossible to wrap your head around the fact that a young man had murdered 26 children and adults, even harder to believe that it happened here, in this idyllic setting.
Father Bob in his eulogy talked about how Uncle Jim, in the weeks after the shootings, stopped by the rectory every day to check on Father Bob and his fellow priests. To make sure that they were holding up ok, managing the immense responsibility of ministering to a parish, to a town that had seen the face of evil, and that was trying to move forward through overwhelming pain. This anecdote, this image moved me to tears. Uncle Jim ministering to the ministers. And even if cancer took the physical James Morgan Mooney from this world, his loving, giving spirit will be here always to inspire us, to motivate us, to lead us.
Father Bob prayed the Irish Blessing at the service, “May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sunshine warm your face, the rain fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.”
Slainté, Uncle Jim.