Full military honors attended the funeral, this morning, for Lt. Col. Joseph P. McCaffery, who was killed at Bougainville Island, Nov. 1, 1943.
McCaffery’s final journey brought him from a simple grave in the tropics, across the Pacific and his homeland, to the family’s snow-covered plot in St. Michael’s Cemetery.
Despite the weather, throngs turned out to pay their last respects to one of Chester’s best-known young men, who went from the athletic field of Pennsylvania Military College to a heroic death in action.
Son of the late Hugh and Marion McCaffery, “Little Joe” entered the Marine Corps two years after his graduation from PMC in 1927. He climbed through the ranks and was a major at Guadalcanal. His inspiring leadership there against the enemy gained him a spot-promotion to Lieutenant Colonel.
The funeral started at 10 a.m. from the George White Funeral Home, Ninth and Madison Streets. From there the cortege wended its way to Chester’s West End, where the name McCaffery is legend.
A Solemn Mass of Requiem was sung at 11 a.m. in the Church of the Resurrection, only a few hundred feet from the old McCaffery home. The Rev. Terence A Brady was the celebrant of the Mass, assisted by Rev. Raymond McHale and Rev. John McKenzie.
Escorting the bier into the church were the pallbearers, Col. Charles Gallagher, Lt. Col. Mervyn Turk, Lt. Col. J. Edward Clyde, Lt. Col. Charles Hummer, Lt. Col. Walter Layer and Dixie Dryden, representing the American Legion.
Among the persons attending the Mass were Mayor Ralph F. Swarts, Vincent Sanbe, director of Parks and Public Property, Police Chief Andrew Desmond, Col. Frank K. Hyatt, president of PMC, and William B. McClenachan, Jr., former district attorney.
After the Mass, the funeral procession moved to St. Michael’s Cemetery, where the other members of the McCaffery family are buried. A color guard and firing squad stood at attention as the funeral entered the cemetery gates.
The firing squad consisted of Legionnaires, PMC cadets and former Marines. Stevenson Post, 190, City Post, 190, American Legion and the Marine Corps League of Delaware County were represented.
After the burial services were read by Rev. Brady and Rev. Francis Kelly, former Marine chaplain, a three-gun salute was fired and PMC cadets sounded taps.
Friends and relatives of “Little Joe” stood quietly. Only a few were protected by the temporary canvas shelter erected over the grave. Most stood bareheaded in the drizzling snow. The flag was at half-staff on the cemetery flagpole.
William J. Brady, an uncle, received the flag that had covered the casket until it was lowered into the grave.
The honorary pallbearers included Thomas Leet, James L. Desmond, Simon Pauxtis, Alfred Buono, Robert L. Granger, Dr. Newton A. Wyman, James A. G. Campbell, Jr., Phillip J. Reilly, Major Gen. William G. Price (Ret.), Joseph J. Skelly, James T. Quinn, Edward A. Daylor, Thomas A. Curran, William J. Crothers, W. Alrich Price, John E. McGovern, Clarence L. Conner, John R. Hanna, Jack S. Calnghan and Michael Prostivich.
Lt. Col. A. A. Vandegrift, Jr., Philadelphia Navy Yard, was the Marine Corps escort.
McCaffery relatives who attended were Mr. and Mrs. William J. Brady and family, of Philadelphia; Mrs. Lucy McCaffery, widow of Joe’s brother, Hugh, Jr.; Mr. and Mrs. Leon McCardle, of Philadelphia; and Mr. and Mrs. William R. Diasey, of Philadelphia.
Others present included Mrs. H. R. Walsh, Mrs. C. R. Greaney and Edward Druding, all of Philadelphia; Mr. and Mrs. Henry Corcoran, of West Chester and James Quinn of Raleigh, N.J.
Hugh McCaffery, Sr., Chester Hotel man, died when Joe and Hugh, Jr. were youngsters. Young Hugh was killed in a California plane crash shortly after Pearl Harbor and Mrs. McCaffery died several days after learning of Joe’s death in November, 1943.
A small boy while at PMC, Joe was regarded as one of the best quarterbacks ever produced there. In addition, he starred in basketball and tennis.
After graduation, he served at various Marine Corps installations in this country and at Pearl Harbor and Shanghai, China.
As a Marine Corps officer he was an exception—a leader who was almost adored by the enlisted men under his command.