Middlebury - James E. Cleary, Jr. passed away peacefully on October 23, 2020, at Wolcott View Manor. James was the son of the late Jennie (Guerard) and James Cleary of Waterbury.
Born April 15, 1925 in Waterbury, James attended Merriman School. As a teen, James was honored for pitching three no hitters for the Washington Park baseball team. He went on to win the Silver Gloves boxing championship at Savin Rock as a professional boxer. James then enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in the midst of WWII and was stationed in Quantico, VA before serving as a demolition specialist for the 3rd division of the USCM in the battle of Iwo Jima.
Upon his discharge from the Marine Corps, James become a firefighter for the city of Waterbury, driving Engine 1 out of Burton Street. He worked tirelessly with the goal of saving enough money to open his own business. That goal was achieved when James took over East Mountain, the nursing home run by his mother. Later, he opened Mark Twain Arms, a skilled nursing facility in Hartford. James went on to earn his nursing home administrator’s license at Quinnipiac College and open Medicare Pavilion (Meridian Manor) in Waterbury, with the motto: “We care for those for whom you care.”
In 1974, James and his brother co-founded Wolcott View Manor and dedicated the building to their late mother. James’ passion for caring for the elderly as if they were his own family, prompted him to start the first family association for nursing homes. Throughout his years, he cared for thousands of residents and their families, forming bonds with all who walked through the doors. He will be remembered for lending a helping hand to his employees any time they were in need. James built much more than businesses; he built homes away from home for both the residents and employees.
James was also invested in remembering all who served our country. He was a member of the National Iwo Jima Survivors Association and was honored for his many contributions to building and maintaining the National Iwo Jima Memorial in New Britain.
In addition to his passion of caring for others, James enjoyed spending time skiing, golfing, and cheering for the Red Sox. He was also an avid Frank Sinatra fan who could be heard serenading others any chance he got. His charisma mirrored that of “old blue eyes.”
Above all, it was his family that held the place at the center of James’ heart. He formed a unique bond with each of his children and encouraged them to peruse their goals, always emphasizing the importance of education. He looked forward to “breaking bread” with his family whenever possible, especially at his Christmas Eve gatherings. James will live on in the hearts and minds of his family for eternity.
James is survived by his children: Sheila Smith and her husband, Richard; Marilyn Cleary; Seth Cleary; Lurleen C. DosSantos; Brian Cleary and his wife, Shawna; Brenda Cleary-Williams and her husband, Darren; Meghan Cleary and Kristopher Srugis; as well as 15 grandchildren: Judd, Tyler, Abigail, Robert, Amanda, Paulie, James, Bianca, Jonathan, Rylan, Aniella, Padraig, Kenneth, James (Jet), and Anna; and six great grandchildren. He was predeceased by his sons, James Cleary, III and Kenneth Cleary; his grandson, Shane Cleary; as well as his former wife Marie (Tedesco) Cleary and his wife Ann (Owens) Cleary.
The family would like to extend its appreciation to the staff of Wolcott View Manor, James’ many private caregivers, and Dr. Raad and his staff.
Walk thru calling hours will be held on Thursday, October 29, from 4:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. at the Bergin Funeral Home 290 East Main Street in Waterbury. Covid 19 guidelines and social distancing will be strictly enforced. A Mass of Christian burial and entombment in Calvary Garden Mausoleum will be private.
To send flowers to James' family, please visit our floral store.