James Waddell Nugent obituary; Constance Colwell Nugent, his first wife and my mother; her parents

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James Waddell Nugent

JAMES WADDELL NUGENT Died on July 6, 2012 at his home in Vero Beach, FL.
He was born on January 8, 1927 in Pittsburgh, PA and spent his childhood in the care of his maternal grandparents in Greensburg, PA. In 1943, he joined the United States Marine Corps. He served in the Pacific from 1943 to 1946 and again during the Korean War from 1951 to 1954, retiring with the rank of Major. He served as Aide to the Secretary of the Army from 1973 to 1976.
Following active duty military service, he co-founded and served as President of Davis, Bateman, and Nugent, a provider of commercial insurance based in Providence, RI. He was the Republican candidate for Governor of Rhode Island in 1974, chaired the election campaign of Ronald Reagan in New England in 1976 and served as Chairman of Reagan-Bush for President in 1980 and 1984 in Rhode Island, during which time he was also White House Clearance Officer, chairing a Federal Advisory Committee.
[With US President Ronald Reagan]
[with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Providence, R.I. mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, and his second wife, Helen Horne Nugent of Prince Edward Island, Canada] 
An avid golfer [JdN: with two holes-in-one 🙂 ], Mr. Nugent was member of the Wannamoissett and Rhode Island Country Clubs, the Green Gables Golf Club in Prince Edward Island, Canada, and Bent Pine in Vero Beach, FL.
A devoted Rotarian, Mr. Nugent served as President of the Rotary Club of Providence, RI from 1962 to 1963 [JdN: at age 35,the youngest president ever at that time of a Rotary Club],
as Trustee of the Vero Beach Rotary Charities Foundation. Additional volunteer positions included Member of the Board of Directors of the American Cancer Society, Consultant for the Service Corps of Retired Executives, Elder of the First Presbyterian Church of Vero Beach, Florida (church photo below), and Volunteer for the Humane Society of Vero Beach, among others.
Mr. Nugent is survived by his wife of 40 years, Helen Nugent, sons John and Todd, granddaughters Ingrid Irigoyen and Erika Atzl, and two great-grandchildren.
He was deeply respected for his leadership role in every community in which he lived, his service to his country, and his dedication to charity. He was known for his honest and straightforward nature, charming sense of humor, and commitment to doing the right thing in all his actions. He was beloved by many and will be deeply missed.
Memorial Services will be held on Saturday, July 14, 2012 at 1:00 pm at the First Presbyterian Church at 520 Royal Palm Blvd, Vero Beach, FL. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Humane Society or the Rotary Charities Foundation. Paid Obituary
Published in the TC Palm on July�14,�2012
His house in Barrington, Rhode Island
View across a fairway of RI Country Club to Narragansett Bay
With his elder son John at his gated community, Seagrove, at 1785 Coral Way North, Vero Beach, Florida


My father, James W. Nugent, is here just short of calling President Gerald Ford, in the Oval Office, a boneheaded moron for insisting on closing the Quonset Naval Air Station in Rhode Island in the 1970s while spending billion$ on a new out-of-state US Navy military facility. My father lost this battle, and a year later Ford lost his to Jimmy Carter. Ford was known for playing football without a helmet.
[With US President Gerald Ford]
family photo January 2007on his 70th birthday (upper row, l. to r.) John; his brother Todd; his son-in-law Jose Irigoyen;
(lower row) His stepmother from Prince Edward Island, Canada, Helen; his father James; his elder daughter Ingrid, then getting her master’s at Duke University; and his then fiancee (still ladyfriend) Margaret


Now I have an anecdote of courage with a young Marine officer facing down an Army general (a very dicey thing, because Marines and Army people feel a strong rivalry) and then being forthright with a Marine general. It involved my dad, who was a Marine officer in Korea.

Damaged color photo of my father, then a captain (later a lieutenant colonel), an at that time the Marine Corps Aide to the Governor of Rhode Island, John Chafee, in 1965 at an Independence Day parade in Bristol, Rhode Island, standing next to Major General Leonard Holland, CO 1961-83, RI National Guard (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhode_Island_Army_National_Guard)


An Army general was in charge of a major attack on the Chinese using US Army troops and Marines. He wanted them to assault — uphill — a Chinese firing position inside a cave.

All the kiss-butt, worried-mostly-about-their-career officers, Army and Marine, said nothing as the General enunciated his insane plan.

But my dad DID speak up, and told the general, in front of a hushed crowd of fellow officers, “Sir, this plan will result in 80% casualties and it will NOT take the objective.”

The general was stunned…. and as the silence grew, he cancelled the briefing.

As my father, then a captain, filed out, a Marine general was standing in the back. He called out to my father:


“Captain, come over here. Do you really mean what you said just now?”

“Yes, sir.”

“All right. That is all I needed to know. Carry on.” …….

And then….. something got said, because the suicidal attack was called OFF.

Decades later, in the 1970s, my dad was dining at a restaurant on Cape Cod, in Massachusetts. Lo and behold, who comes over to the table but that very general! He had recognized my dad after 20 years by his face, build and voice. They got reacquainted and the general said:

“Your courage and your speaking up saved a lot of lives that day. When no one else spoke up, you DID”!

That was not just physical courage (and lots of Marines and Army soldiers have that); that was MORAL courage, to stand up and step forth, to walk into the dead silence of piercing scrutiny,and then, as everyone stares at you, as everyone else is wimping out, to boldly proclaim the TRUTH that saves precious human lives!

My father fought in WWII in the Pacific (Tinian, Saipan and Iwo Jima) as a Marine NCO, and then as an officer in Korea. He was wounded, fought many hand-to-hand combats, he had to see a shrink for six months after Korea due to PTSD, and he was in a coma for three days after a Chinese mortar round hit near him. (1953 photo of him as a Marine Corps captain. He finished as a lieutenant colonel.)


……My mother, his first wife, Constance Colwell Nugent


Descendant maternally, as was my father paternally in a different branch,  of Thomas Angell, co-founder of the Colony of Rhode Island Providence Plantations in 1636…

Student at the Rhode Island School of Design 1951-53

Constance Colwell


The First Baptist Church in all of North America was given its land in 1638 by Thomas Angell from his orchard on what is now called Angell Street on the East Side of Providence.





Houses on Angell Street facing the church





Her parents, John Thomas Colwell of Goole, Yorkshire, England (a federal and state certified accountant) and his mother, Elizabeth Colwell, nee Angell (a full merit scholarship student and graduate of the Ivy League Brown University) in front of their house in Glocester, RI, built in 1792


John Thomas Colwell Elizabeth Angell Colwell

Her father John, my grandfather, grilling burgers on a Fourth of July


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