David Joseph Nagle received last rites at age 20 before boarding a plane that dropped him over Normandy on D-Day. He lived 60 more years, viewing each day as a gift.
Nagle, 80, died Friday of cancer at his Sebastopol home surrounded by family.
Nagle and his wife, Elizabeth Nagle, lived in west Sonoma County 41 years, where they raised eight children.
The knowledge that he could have died in the war helped fuel his enduring, incredible optimism, family members said.
''He had the greatest attitude about life,'' said son John Nagle of Graton. ''He valued every day.''
Nagle was born in lower Manhattan and grew up in Hell's Kitchen and the Bronx. In 1942, he was a member of the first graduating class of St. Ignatius Rice High School.
''He was Irish to the core, and had an eloquent tongue,'' John Nagle said.
As a paratrooper in World War II, he jumped into the shrapnel-filled skies over Normandy during the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944. He was captured that day by German soldiers and wounded while being transported to a POW camp.
He escaped six months later. But after being found by Russian soldiers, he was sent to a work camp with German prisoners. He eventually was liberated by U.S. airmen in Potsdam, Germany.
He later was awarded a Purple Heart.
Nagle returned to Normandy once, and since the late 1970s attended every annual reunion of his comrades from the war, including a last trip in 2003.
In 1997, he was one of eight World War II POWS honored as grand marshals in the Petaluma Veteran's Day parade.
''I come with very few people having survived where I was, so I take this all for them,'' the then 73-year-old Nagle said.
Nagle and his wife were married for 55 years. They moved to Sonoma County in 1963, settling first in Camp Meeker and later moving to Sebastopol, where they lived for 34 years.
One of his prouder accomplishments was forming the Camp Meeker Homeowner's Association, a group that persuaded the local water company to build the area's first sanitary water system in the 1960s.
For years Nagle ran a mail business in Santa Rosa.
He was a member of the 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment Association, Disabled American Vets, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Order of the Purple Heart, the Ex-POW Association, St. Sebastian's Catholic Church and the Young Men's Institute.
He also was a member of the International Typographical Union and the first president of the Camp Meeker Homeowners Association. He was a former member of the Sonoma County Democratic Central Committee.
In addition to son John, he is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Nagle of Sebastopol; sons David Michael Nagle and James Nagle, both of Sebastopol, and sons Terrance Nagle of Hayfork, Vincent Nagle of Attleboro, Mass., and Thomas Nagle of Landing, N.J.; daughters Judith Nagle of Bodega and Eileen Nagle of Provo, Utah; 21 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
A viewing will be at 4 p.m. Friday, followed by the rosary at 6:30 p.m., both at the home of David Michael Nagle, 476 Pleasant Hill Ave., Sebastopol. The rosary will be followed by a wake.
A mass at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Sebastian's Church in Sebastopol will be celebrated by Nagle's son, the Rev. Vincent Nagle. Burial will be at Pleasant Hill Cemetery, followed by a reception.
Memorial contributions may be made to St. Ignatius Rice High School, 74 W. 124th Street, New York, NY 10027.
(The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, CA, 22 Jul 2004, Page B2
- courtesy of Tedd Cocker)
(courtesy of Dan Waller)
Grave marker for David J. Nagle in the Pleasant Hills
Cemetery, Sebastopol (Sonoma county), California.
David enlisted in the
Army on 25 February 1943 was assigned to Company E, 508th PI.
Pvt Nagle jumped into
Normandy during the D-Day invasion of 6 June1944. He was captured
that same day and wounded while being transported to a POW camp. He
later was awarded a Purple Heart.
On 16 April 1945, he
was liberated from Stalag 3C, Prussia.
His military awards
include the Purple Heart, Combat Infantrymen Badge (CIB) and
Prisoner of War medal.