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By admin | November 22nd, 2009

DiBernardo: Past president Jim DiBernardo dies

Jim DiBernardo

Jim DiBernardo

USMCCCA past president, James Vincent DiBernardo, USMC (ret) passed away at the age of 75 from prostate cancer on November 20, 2009, at his home in Temecula, CA surrounded by his family.

James was born on October 18, 1934 in Fulton, New York, and has lived in Temecula, CA since 1976. He graduated from Fulton High School in New York in 1952. After High School, James entered the US Marine Corps, proudly serving for 30 years. He began his career in the Marines as enlisted personal, but was able to obtain the officer’s rank of Major through hard work, dedication and sacrifice. His achievements include the Bronze Star Medal, Three Purple Hearts, Two Navy Commendations, and the Vietnamese Medal of Honor.

During his service, James was a Prisoner of War for 5 years. He was captured on February 3, 1968. His cellmate, Bill Baird, whom was severely injured by a landmine, stated that without James’ encouragement, he would have given up and died. Released on March 5, 1973 from Hanoi Hilton, James went home to be with his family and meet his two youngest daughters for the first time. After serving in the Marines, James attended National University and earned his Bachelors Degree in Business, setting an example to his children, the importance of getting an education. He moved his family to Temecula, CA and founded his Insurance Business “DiBernardo & Associates.”

James is survived by his loving wife of 52 years Sharen DiBernardo and his children Vincent, Tony, Joy, and Susan: Their spouses Melissa, Carolyn, Bud, and grandchildren Douglas, Isabel, Dominic, Mike, Vinnie, Anthony; and many other extended family members and friends. Unfortunately, on October 14, 2009, James lost his oldest daughter Gail who left behind her husband Chris and son Colin.

A Graveside Service and Military Honors will be held on Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 9:45 AM Staging Area 4 at Riverside National Cemetery.  A reception will follow for family and friends at Evans – Brown Sun City Mortuary.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggest donations to: American Cancer Society PO Box 22718, Oklahoma City, OK 73123-1718, EVANS BROWN MORTUARY (951) 679-1114. — Published in Press-Enterprise on November 22, 2009


9 comments to DiBernardo: Past president Jim DiBernardo dies

  • avatar Jack Paxton

    : Jim was a long-time friend from our days running the Kaneohe Bay Windward Marine newspaper in 1959-60. While I could say many things about his professionalism – and he was a pro – I would put his prowess in the kitchen against anyone. His lasagnas were works of art. I will always remember the day he was released from the “Hanoi Hilton” after five years imprisonment. We did not know he was a prisoner until just before his release. I was with GTE in West Virginia at the time and I broke down when I was watching CBS news and saw him get off the bus. I immediately called our old boss and mutual friend, Bob Morrisey, not realizing it was 4 a.m. in California. Mo and Mary Jane were ecstatic and went with DiBer’s wife, Sharon, to Miramar (I believe) to meet him. Two days later I got a surprise telephone call from him that I never forgot. He was a great guy and will be very much missed. Jack Paxton, Executive Director

  • avatar Jack Paxton

    This from Kathy Cueva, Bob Morrisey’s daughter:

    Again my heart is broken! Unbelievable that he is gone. Were they still out here in California? I think I have a picture of my parents, Sharon , my sister and I when he got off the plane. It is all of us from behind but I can look for it if you need it. It was the standard black and white, USMC photographer type pic.

    I know my Dad is smiling…and I think a little sad, too.

  • avatar colsally

    I can’t believe it. All I heard during my tour at DINFOS was Jim this and Deber that. He was a saint in their eyes, butI had never met him. Then while he was at the hospital at Camp Pendleton, I listened to his horrid stories. I’ll never forget the ones about pumpkin soup. Eventually, he was assigned as my deputy at El Toro. We worked together for a couple of years. I remember later when I was stationed at Pendleton, I had acquired a dog, so we went to visit him and Sharen at his their new home. My dog promptly “christened” their new carpeting. I was so embarrassed but they took it in stride. I sure will miss him. s/f, Jim

  • avatar admin

    I first met Jim DiBernardo when we were both corporals at Camp Pendleton in the spring and summer in support of reserve training out at Camp Las Pulgas. Then, ran into him and Les Burnett when they were two enlisted instructors at the Dinfos in Indiana sometime in early 1966. I was soon in Vietnam and John Novak was in Phu Bai trying to line up and open the TV station in Hue. I guess by late 1967 Novak had left and Jim was the new OIC of the facility.

    We visited Sharon in Orange County a couple of times while Jim was a prisoner. She had intelligence that he was alive and a prisoner, but could not, of course, correspond with Jim. The NVA could never admit to holding him and others prisoners, as that would admit that they had troops in the RVN.

    We met again when he was returned to the States in 1973, passing through the Camp Pendleton Navy hospital for processing. I managed to see him and Sharon almost every day while Jim was there. One of the earlier arriving former POWs had to be moved out of the hospital before Jim arrived, because “officials” were worried that the higher-ranking officer might be harmed by those who did not aid the NVA enemy. (later, that ‘bird was appointed to the Orange County Board of Supervisors by Gov. Jerry Brown.)

    I saw Jim several times as he was the PAO in San Diego and was also SD Chapter president and National president, and later when he built a house in Temecula.

    My children played with his children in the ’60s and we will all miss him. — Roger Combs

  • I was stunned to read about The Diber. He is indeed a saint in my eyes. We first met in 1960 when I joined the 1stMarDiv ISO and he was at The Scout at CamPen. We were both wearing that new rank, “Sergeant, E-5”. First thing I noticed was how much he resembled the legendary coach, Vince Lombardi. I kidded him about having the tenacity of the Packers coach.

    When Diber returned from ‘Nam, Mo Morrisey and I hurried out to greet him at Lindbergh Field, San Diego. (I was a staffer at the San Diego Union at the time.) Diber looked great!

    Although we talked and emailed over the years, I last saw him at the Dallas CC reunion in the late 1980s. I was privileged to sit with him at dinner and hear first hand tales of his adventures in Hue and Hanoi.

    Yep, The Diber is a saint in my eyes. I hope he will pave the way for out next meeting.

    Semper Fi, my friend.

    Steve Stibbens

  • I met Jim DiBernardo in 1960 when I reported to MCAS Kaneohe and was assigned to the Base Paper, The Winward Marine. nJim was just one of teh outstanding Marines working for the paper. When I found out that Jim was moonlighting as cheff at the Kaneohe Yacht Club I mentioned if he needed help please don’t hesitate to ask as I did most of the cooking for my family before joining the Corps.
    Working with Jim I ate the best beef strogonaugh ever, and learned some new styles of cooking, Italian al la DiBernardo.
    When I heard had been captured during Tet when I asked and wanted to see him again.
    In 1973 I heard the POW’s were being released and hoped he was one of them.
    Jim you will be missed but never forgotton. I am sure you are already set as the Head Cook at MCB Heaven Carry On. Donnie.Shearer

  • avatar Bob McEwen

    I didn’t have the honor of meeting Jim until our conference in New Orleans. I confessed to him that had felt guilty in that he and I were commissioned about the same time and both were slated for Vietnam. My orders were changed to the Pentagon and I had thought perhaps I would have been the guy in Hue instead of Jim. I explained that to him on the riverboat cruise. He laughed and told me had had that billet locked down before he left California. A true gentleman.

  • avatar admin

    Jim was a rare individual, a man who could make anyone feel at ease in his presence. I was in the advanced info specialist course at DINFOS, the day we learned Jim was missing after the fall of the station at Hue. I remember the profound sense of loss all of the Marine students felt.

    When I returned to Vietnam in 1969 I always hoped that one of the patrols I went on would discover those holding him and that we would be able to get him back. Obviously, that never happened. I was at CamPen when Jim was released and I got to shake his hand the day he reported to the JPAO there for duty. It was a wonderful feeling…like meeting the “prodigal son.”

    I learned a lot from Jim about being both a Marine and a man. He introduced me to cigars…my continuing vice. I’ll light one up for him this afternoon.

    Semper Fi, Don O’Neal, president, USMCCCA Foundation

  • avatar admin

    From Facebook:
    John Boring: Jim was a decent man and a fine Marine. Last I saw him was at Camp Pendleton before he left for Vietnam. I saw his name on the repatriated list and rejoiced for him, that was the first I knew that he had been a POW. Very sorry to hear of his passing.

    Michael J. Arnold: Last time I saw Jim was in 1978 when I was at the Yuma PAO. He was an excellent representative for a U.S. Marine Corps Officer and I was proud to have known him.

    Thomas D. Segel: Jim was a Marine to the very core of his being. He held himself strong while a POW and suffered silently through years in captivity. He never let that horrible experience dim his personality or love of life. As a member of theCombat Correspondent clan, Jim stood out as the CC we could all admire with great pride. He will guard heaven’s gates well.

    Joe Carr: When then Capt Jim returned to active duty his first assignment was ComRel Officer at MCAS ElToro. I was a SSgt then and was assigned as his ComRel Chief. I certainly knew that he’d been a POW but you would’ve never known that by the way came right back to work. His uniform was impeccable, he carried himself like a Marine officer should and lacked … See Moreno job skills. He knew that I’d been a D.I. and he told me that he wanted to get back in to Marine Corps shape. He said that I would train him and not to be kind about it. So for about two weeks we hit the P.T. field and he busted his ass trying to build up stamina so he could run again like a Marine. It ripped at my heart but I hid those feelings and never let up on him. After awhile he did improve but I knew that he’d never be 100%. The abuse he endured all of those years took its toll. I told him that he had more guts than three people. I was then headed to Okinawa. It was the last time I would ever see him. He was a man’s man. He looked for no sympathy. I had grown to respect him.

    Nancy LaLuntas: Last time I saw Jim DeBernardo was during a wonderful CC conference he hosted in San Diego at the B’Hia hotel on the bay. He was in Bermuda shorts and a Hawaiian flower shirt. I shuffled him off to play golf with Don Bellisario, and Don had the time of his life with Jim. I have studied the Hanoi Hilton, and it was an incredible experience for those who suffered it. But Jim never said a word about it. He (radio man) was just silent about that. I loved him.

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