On October 30th, 2020 James Leonard Herlihy died in much the same way as he lived: courageously, at peace, and surrounded by his loving family. A life of 92 years is impossible to capture in a few short paragraphs, especially a life as full and vibrant as his, but his family is comforted by the fact that Jim’s playful and incandescent spirit lives well beyond these words in the deeds he did, the minds he educated, and the hearts he inspired until the very end.
Jim was born on March 7, 1928 in Glens Falls, New York. A natural adventurer, Jim’s fondest childhood memories were of exploring the quarries, lakes, and forests that surrounded his boyhood home. After being drafted into the Korean War effort in 1950, Jim was stationed in Alaska to fly missions intercepting Russian bombers. It was dangerous work made more perilous by the harsh Alaskan conditions, but Jim considered his first stationing as one of the most fortunate events of his life, as it was here where he met Ginny, his future wife and lifelong love.
During Jim’s military career, he completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and a Master of Business Administration degree at George Washington University.
Jim’s Air Force career took him, literally, around the world and in 1972 brought him and his family to Goldsboro, North Carolina where he spent his final Air Force years on Seymour Johnson AFB. Goldsboro would become his final hometown - a military town where he could play golf year-round.
Upon his military retirement in 1980, Jim continued to serve his community as a teacher of undergraduate business students at Wayne Community College for sixteen years. Jim had two accomplished careers, serving as an Air Force fighter pilot and a professor of business, and was equally proud of both.
Jim’s deep faith, exceptional courage, and interminable curiosity manifested themselves in a complicated attitude toward death as well as life. While he was not afraid to die, he was inevitably saddened at the prospect of not being here to discover what quarry, lake, or forest this world of wonder might offer next. But beneath this sadness there existed an optimism for tomorrow that was unshakable, a source of heat and light that permeated all he did and that his loved ones will carry forward with pride. Jim leaves behind the most noble legacy available to a man: a loving family who will miss him dearly and who will celebrate all that he was with the grace, courage, and kindness with which he lived his life.
Jim is survived by his wife of 66 years, Virginia (nee Todd), his three children James Michael, Mary Flint (Peter), and Daniel Todd. Jim is also survived by his five grandchildren: Zachary Flint, Lillie Campbell (Ryan), Joseph Herlihy, Thomas Herlihy, and Kathryn Herlihy. Jim was a loving uncle to 11 nieces and nephews, their spouses, and their children.
Jim will be laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery at a future date as yet to be determined.
A small, private Mass for the family will be said at Saint Mary Catholic Church in Goldsboro in the coming weeks.
In lieu of flowers, contributions to Saint Mary School in Jim’s name would be appreciated.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of James L. Herlihy, please visit our floral store.