Commissioner Chaney WWII Vet Dies at 82


AUG. 9, 1998 — Longtime Moriarty rancher and Bataan Death March survivor James Washington Chaney, a highway commissioner under three New Mexico governors, died Friday morning at San Juan Regional Medical Center. He was 82. Chaney was first appointed to the post as District 3 highway commissioner in January 1973 by then Gov. Bruce King, during King’s first term. Chaney served as highway commissioner under Gov. Jerry Apodaca from 1975-78. He was reappointed for another six years and served during King's second term from 1979-82. The World War II veteran continued as commissioner until Dec. 31, 1984, under Gov. Toney Anaya. He served as secretary of the commission during the 12 years of his appointment. Chaney, who acquired his nickname “Mike” during World War II, was born on a ranch in Moran, Texas, on April 14, 1916. He was attending Western New Mexico University in Silver City, planning to become a football coach, when he received a call-up notice in 1941. His regiment, the 200th Coast Artillery (Anti-aircraft), was sent to the Philippines in the fall of 1941. His regiment held out against the Japanese on the Bataan Peninsula from December 1941 until April 1942, when more than 70,000 sick and starving American and Filipino forces were forced to surrender. The men were then marched nearly 70 miles to Camp O’Donnell in what became known as the infamous Bataan Death March. Many died on the march or in Japanese prison camps. Half the Americans who were forced to surrender died before the war ended. Chaney, by then a captain, was liberated from a prisoner of war camp on the Japanese island of Honshu in 1945. He returned to New Mexico and in 1946 married Nona Rae Noah, whom he had met in Silver City before the war. The couple went into ranching where they raised black angus cattle, said his daughter, Cathy Jacobs. Jacobs, a dispatcher for San Juan County Communications, said her father packed mules for the Forest Service before the war and ranched until two years ago. Chaney and his wife recently moved to Aztec. He is survived by his wife, Nona; daughter Cathy and son-in-law Richard Jacobs; granddaughter Kaidria and grandson Noah. Services will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Bethel United Methodist Church in Moriarty. Interment with full military honors will be Tuesday afternoon at the National Cemetery on Paseo de Peralta in Santa Fe.


The Daily Times (Farmington, NM)