Joseph Edward Kearney
Published: November 28, 2012
Captain Joseph Edward KEARNEY, USN (Retired), 94, passed away early Monday, November 26 at Hospice Home Care in Little Rock, Ark. Born on November 28, 1917 to Birdie Mathews and Thomas Edward Kearney in Little Rock.
Joe was preceded in death by his parents; three brothers: William, John, and Thomas; two sisters: Marie Kearney and Doctor Pauline Slaughter; and his wife of sixty years, Maurice Barham Kearney. Captain Kearney is survived by one daughter, Anna Jane Johnston (Scot) and one son, Captain John Kearney, USN (ret); five granddaughters: Leslie Smith, Rebecca Neighbors (Robert), Amy Bush (David), Megan Lane (John) all of Little Rock, and Sally Johnston of Dallas, TX; and nine great grandchildren, also of Little Rock.
As a boy, Joe was an avid athlete playing baseball, basketball, tennis and track. He could always be found at the Little Rock Boys Club. He participated in the Boys Club of America National Track Competition where he finished first in the Western Division and fifth in the nation in the unlimited weight division. Kearney graduated from Little Rock High School and attended Henderson University where he lettered and received all conference awards in basketball, football, track and baseball. Graduating from Henderson in 1941, Joe enlisted in the U.S. Navy and attended Officer Candidate School at the U.S. Naval Academy. Upon completion, Kearney was commissioned an Ensign and volunteered for the submarine service. He served in submarines during World War II in the Pacific completing29 months of combat duty on the S-28, USS Plunger and USS Grouper. During this time, he completed 10 war patrols in all areas of the Pacific. He rose to the position of Executive Officer prior to the end of the war. In 1945, Joe returned to civilian life in Little Rock and started in business with two childhood friends. Three years later, in 1948, Kearney went to work for the War Assets Disposal Department of the US Government and was placed in charge of the closing and selling of all excess military equipment and facilities in the state of Arkansas. Also during this time, Joe returned to the sports arena coaching basketball. In 1949, he coached the Morgan Insurance team playing in the AAU central division winning two straight crowns. Kearney's team went on to play in the National AAU basketball tournament in Oklahoma City, losing in the quarterfinals to the ultimate winner, Peoria Caterpillars. In 1948, Kearney was recalled to active duty in the US Navy to assist in developing a Naval Reserve Submarine Program. Joe continued to serve on active duty for the next eighteen years. His duty assignments included Commanding Officer of USS Graffias (AF-29), a supply ship operating in the Western Pacific as part of the Seventh Fleet out of Japan; and Executive Officer of USS Cabildo, an Amphibious Landing Dock ship during the Korean War where he participated in the invasion of Inchon, as well as the sweeping of mines from the Formosa Straits. Additionally, Joe commanded several Naval Reserve Centers including Lake Charles, La., Portland, Ore, and Little Rock, Ark. Also, he served on various major staffs including Commander Cruiser Destroyer Forces Pacific during the Vietnam War and Commander Naval Reserve Force. Captain Kearney retired from active duty in 1969. After his retirement, Joe returned to Little Rock where he was active in Our Lady of the Holy Souls Catholic Church, coaching the Holy Souls' boys basketball team for several years, assisting the Catholic High School football program as statistician, and was a member of the men's booster club. Kearney was an avid golfer and member of Western Hills Golf Club where he served two terms as club president.
A funeral mass will be held at Our Lady of the Holy Souls Catholic Church on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 10 a.m. followed by burial at Calvary Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Arkansas Hospice or Holy Souls School. Arrangements by Ruebel Funeral Home, www.ruebelfuneralhome.com.