James Alva Munson, age 96, died on the 28th of May, 2019, in Falmouth, Ma. Born in Long Pine, Nebraska, he graduated from Winner High School in Winner, South Dakota, and from there went on the University of South Dakota for two years. He then entered the US Military Academy (USMA) graduating and commissioned as a field artillery officer in 1945. He later earned a Masters in International Affairs from Columbia University and also graduated from the Army Staff College and the Army War College. But his time at West Point proved formative and pivotal to the rest of his life: he found a career, a partner in every sense of the word in Nancy Brewer, a host of lifetime friends, and no small cachet as a scrub on the West Point national champion and undefeated football team of 1945.
During his thirty years of active duty General Munson served in the Army of Occupation in Germany, during the truce period in Korea, as a company XO in Japan, and in combat in Viet Nam from 1968-1969. He was twice assigned to Embassy duties, first as a military attaché in Argentina and later as Defense Attaché in Mexico. He also served three tours in the Pentagon including one, notably, as assistant to then Secretary of the Army Stanley Resor. When he tried to turn down Sec. Resor’s request to join his staff on the grounds that he had seven children at home that really needed him, the Secretary’s response was “Too bad, so do I!” At retirement in 1975 he was the Assistant Commander of the 1st Armored Division in Germany.
General Munson was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the Army’s highest non-combat decoration for his work with the Mexican Army in controlling drug trafficking and crop eradication. Among his other medals were three Legions of Merit, two Bronze Stars, and five Air Medals (one for valor in combat). The Republic of Viet Nam honored him for his courage in rescuing civilians caught in an ambush, as did the Government of Mexico for his work with their drug control program.
All of General Munson’s 44 years of retirement were spent on Mariners Lane, in Falmouth, Ma, or during summers four miles down the road in Menauhant. He was a Deacon in the First Congregational Church and, for several years, Chairman of its Nominating Committee. He served as Treasurer and Board Member of the United Church Apartments, Corporate Member of the Falmouth Hospital, Red Cross volunteer and Boy Scout Committeeman. During his years at the Woods Hole Golf Club he served on the Board of Governors and as Chairman of the Building Committee.
In retirement General Munson worked on his family history and genealogy. He was a major contributor to the Munson Record published in 1993 and was a founding member of the Thomas Munson Foundation, its President for four year and a leader in establishing its Scholarship Fund.
He enjoyed golf, fishing, and -- once a month for 26 years-- poker games with his wonderful pals. He and Nancy traveled around the world, and shared the travel and many visits with friends and family that so polish the definition of a life well lived. His abiding joy was life on the porch, usually observed from the perch of his corner chair, and large dinners; noise, insights shared, stories mis-told, cribbage, and the rollicksome laughter and learning of two, three and occasionally four generations of family and friends.
General Munson was predeceased by his wife of 68 years, Nancy Brewer Munson. He is survived by six sons and a daughter: John H. of Dagsboro, DE; James S. of Rexford, NY; Thomas D. of Woodbridge, VA; Robert A. of Monument, CO; Richard J. of Jefferson City, TN; Anne B. of Falmouth, MA; and William R. of Atlanta, GA; and three cherished daughters-in-law. He is also survived by five granddaughters (and four grandsons-in-law), four grandsons (and two granddaughters in-law) and two step-grandchildren; as well as six great-granddaughters, five great-grandsons and eight step-great-grandchildren.
A funeral service for General Munson will be held at the First Congregational Church, 68 Main St., Falmouth on June 15th at 11 a.m.
Memorial gifts may be made to the TMF Scholarship Fund, 4049 N. Boston Rd., Eden, NY 14057 or to the charity of your choice.