Lewiston classmates to dedicate bench to fallen 'hero'

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LEWISTON — He called himself “the Irish Frenchman.” A friend from Portland spoke fondly of his humor. 

A Lewiston High School classmate described him as “larger than life, the best dancer anyone ever knew, a trendsetter. He made everyone feel like they were his best friend. He was really a special guy.”

A fellow marine called him “fearless.”

James J. McMorrow, a lance corporal in the Marine Corps, died in Vietnam at age 20 on Nov. 10, 1969, while on patrol in Quang Nam province near Da Nang.

“Jimmy,” as his friends called him, was the only member of the Lewiston High School Class of 1968 to die in the war.

This weekend, during their 50th class reunion celebration, members will dedicate a memorial bench in McMorrow’s honor at Veterans Memorial Park beginning at 1 p.m. Friday.

The ceremony will include a color guard, bagpipes, taps and three speakers. An American flag will be presented to the McMorrow family. Jerry Dewitt of the L&A Veterans Council will serve as emcee.

McMorrow joined the Marines and arrived in Vietnam in February 1969 as a member of the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Infantry Regiment and served as a rifleman.

McMorrow made a lasting impression on Alan Grosso. The pair met in Portland the summer after McMorrow graduated from Lewiston. When summer ended, they promised to look each other up when they returned from Vietnam.

Despite McMorrow’s death, Grosso kept that promise. In a moving 2013 Sun Journal guest column, Grasso describes his journey to keep that 45-year promise, leaving a flower on his grave at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Lewiston. 

“Any man or woman who ever served will tell you the ‘real heroes’ are the ones who never made it home,” Grosso wrote. “James McMorrow was a real hero who just happened to be my friend.”

Lance Cpl. James McMorrow

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