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Obituaries > SWEENEY, JOHN B.

Col. John B. Sweeney, 90, USMC (Ret.), of Durango, Colo., and formerly of Las Vegas, passed away peacefully Aug. 15, 2009, from natural causes, with family by his side. John was born in Columbus, Ohio, Dec. 2, 1918, to Mary Elizabeth Creenane and James Michael Sweeney. After graduating from Rosary High School, he went on to attend Xavier University in Cincinnati, where he played basketball and graduated in 1940 with a degree in economics, and went on to receive his masters degree in psychology at Ohio State University in 1952. John was commissioned as a second lieutenant in May 1941, at Quantico, Va. He volunteered for duty with then Lt. Col. Merritt A. Edson, “Red Mike,” commanding officer, First Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, also located at Quantico. As a combat troop leader, John served under Edson’s leadership in 1942 in the South Pacific in World War II. During that period, he played a key role in the seizure of both Tulagi Island and the seizure of Tasimboko Village on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. He was instrumental in defending the strategic airstrip, Henderson Field, on Guadalcanal by his heroic leadership during the epic battle of “Bloody Ridge” (now known and dedicated as “Edson’s Ridge”). John, a 23-year-old commander of “B” Company, was awarded the prestigious Navy Cross for “extraordinary heroism.” He was also awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal. John married the love of his life, Helen (Amrhein) Sweeney, Sept. 28, 1946, at St. Gregory’s Catholic Church, in Los Angeles. He was immediately assigned to the First Battalion, 5th Marines, from October 1946 to June 1947, where he received the Chinese Service Medal and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four bronze stars. In 1957, he served in the Korean Conflict, as the senior advisor to the Republic of Korea Marine Corps Schools. John had an illustrious and exemplary 26-year career in the Marines, culminating in Vietnam, where he served as chief of staff of 3rd Marine Division (1966-1967), in Phu Bai and Da Nang. He was awarded the Legion of Merit with Combat “V,” the Cross of Gallantry with Palm from the Republic of Vietnam, as well as the Republic of Vietnam Service Medal with one star and the Campaign Medal with device. He retired June 1, 1967. John went on to have a second career as a college administrator, first in his hometown of Columbus at Ohio Dominican College and then 16 years as registrar at California State University at Fullerton. During this time, he served as chairman of the Planning Commission and was elected to the San Juan Capistrano City Council for two years. In 1985, after retiring from CSU, John and Helen took up golf and, in 1990, moved to the community of Sun City Summerlin, in Las Vegas, where they could pursue their passion for playing golf year round. They remained in Las Vegas for nearly 20 years. For the last 10 years, John and Helen were summer residents of Durango, playing golf at their favorite course, Hillcrest. They were married for 58 years before Helen passed away in January 2005. In May 2008, John moved to Durango until his passing. John has finished his last tour of duty here on Earth, where he served his country with honor, and we are so proud of his accomplishments. He was a special and loving father. He had a great sense of humor and knew no strangers. We will miss his ever-ready smile and that Irish twinkle in his blue eyes. He always lent a helping hand and looked out for the less fortunate, especially helping the children in the foster care system obtain a college education. He believed education to be the key to a successful and fulfilling life. He also had a passion for basketball, football and most definitely golf. John is survived by his daughters, Kate Sweeney of Durango, Kristine Sweeney (John Grau) of Bethesda, Md., and Helen Mary Sweeney of Garden Grove, Calif.; son, John Sweeney Jr., and his partner, Danielle Dalley and their daughter, Luna, all of Durango; and grandson, Brendan Sweeney Grau of Bethesda. A funeral Mass was held for John, Saturday, Aug. 22, at St. Columba Catholic Church in Durango. John’s remains will be laid to rest, with full military honors, next to his beloved wife, Helen, at Arlington National Cemetery, at a later date. A memorial contribution may be made to Xavier University, Attn: Marsha Losito, 3800 Victory Parkway, ML7730, Cincinnati, OH 45207, or Ohio Dominican University, 1216 Sunbury Road, Columbus, OH 43219.