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By Laura Drinan
Hometown Weekly Reporter
On May 29, members of the community gathered at the top of Needham’s PTC parking garage overlooking the Kendrick Street Bridge. Within an hour’s time, the bridge would officially have a new name: the James J. Delaney II, USMC Veterans Memorial Bridge.
“Jim was a longtime Needham resident,” Bill Topham, caretaker of veterans graves and coordinator of ceremonies for the town, began. “And he was my very good friend. I trucked him all over the place.”
Those in attendance chuckled as they stood at the top of the sunny parking garage, looking out at the bridge and the traffic that never fails to come on a weekday afternoon.
“When you look at some of the things written about him, a lot is left out. He was on Makin Island with the raiders. He was Jimmy Roosevelt’s bodyguard. Big deal.”
The audience laughed again, but Topham assured them that he meant the statement earnestly, listing some of the battles fought by Marines during World War II.
“No, it was a very big deal! He was on Guam, he was on Tarawa, he was on Iwo Jima, he was at Okinawa, and he was recalled to go to Korea,” Topham said. “He only got shot five times, and I asked him, because we would exchange stories and reminisce about the Marine Corps: ‘Jim, didn’t take course on Parris Island? You got shot, like, four times in one leg.’”
Pollard Middle School student Lily Ramras followed Topham’s words with the National Anthem.
Also joining Topham to speak at the dedication was Chaplain Thomas Keating, Selectman Daniel Matthews, MassDOT highway administrator Jonathan Gulliver, and Governor Charlie Baker. State Senators Michael Rush and Richard Ross, along with State Representative Denise Garlick, joined the bridge dedication, as well, and offered kind words.
“He was a wonderful guy,” Topham continued. “He was a gentlemen. He was also a vagabond during the Depression. He joined the Marine Corps; he was in the CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps]. He was smarter than the older guys – he joined the Marine Corps … He was there the whole time.”
Delaney’s wife, Mrs. Helen Delaney, joined the ceremony to help unveil the plaque for all passersby to admire. Eagle Scout Sam Wiesman shared remarks by Congressman Joseph Kennedy III, before past Commander Matthew Ching gave his closing remarks.
“He had a Navy commendation medal, two Asian combat stars, the Korean War medal,” Topham stated.
“He was a hero. He was a Marine.”