Remembering West Town View resident and Korean War veteran James McAdams

By Ben Beehner

Special to The Voice

This summer, West Town View lost a longtime member of our community. James McAdams had been a resident at West Town View for more than 20 years. He was a combat veteran who had served his country in the Korean War.

His former neighbors chuckle when they recall his gruff and cantankerous outward persona which hid a very sweet and endearing personality. He had made good friends in the building including fellow veteran and confidante, John Briggs.

For the last years of his life, James saw his health continue to decline. He began to lose his hearing and vision, which closed off the rest of the world from him.

This summer, as his health worsened, James made the decision to end the final chapter of his life on his own terms. In a community gathering shortly after his passing, friends recounted stories of James in his final few weeks that reveal the clear decision he made and the peace that he believed it would bring him.

Neighbors remember him recently being more social and upbeat when they saw him around the building. He would grab a drink with friends or offer a pleasant greeting in the halls.

A white dogwood tree was recently planted in honor of James McAdams, a longtime West Town View resident who took his own life in the courtyard this summer.

A white dogwood tree was recently planted in honor of James McAdams, a longtime West Town View resident who took his own life in the courtyard this summer.

On his last afternoon, James had a special request of his friend, John. In the beautiful, quiet courtyard at West Town View stands a flag pole. James asked his fellow veteran to join him as he raised his own American flag in the courtyard.

As the sun set on that warm summer day, these two old friends struggled to get out of their scooters, attach the flag and raise it to full staff. As they had done as young men serving their nation in war, that evening they honored America once more. When the task had been finished, the two friends saluted the flag together.

That evening, neighbors recall seeing James enjoying a steak dinner with a glass of cognac. For those who knew him, this was a very rare sight to see. That night in his apartment, he laid out old pictures of friends and family on his desk. Then, in the waning hours of darkness just before dawn, James went out to the south lawn. Next to the courtyard, just below the waving flag he had raised, James took his own life.

In the hours and days that followed James’s death, those at West Town View experienced so many powerful moments. The shock and grief was overwhelming that morning, but others showed resilience and courage in the wake of his final mission.

John was there, composed and dressed sharply in his flight cap, providing hugs and support to others. Some watched over James until his body was taken. They cleaned his scooter and held a kind of vigil over his possessions. As they had done countless times this year, they supported each other and remembered James.

To honor James’s memory as our neighbor and a veteran, we planted a tree in the south lawn of West Town View. Instead of having another reminder of what we lost, we made a tribute to what James was. He was a fixture of this community for so long, and this tree will continue that.

The white dogwood we planted will bloom every spring. It will stand outside the courtyard, near the flag that James loved so dearly. Residents have agreed to help water it and soon a plaque honoring all veterans that have served in the armed forces will be laid there.

Editor’s note: Beehner is LIPH Property Manager for SHA, including West Town View.

 

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