WWII veteran dies at 87

One of Laguna’s most revered war veterans, retired U. S. Marine Sgt. Major James G. Law, slipped peacefully into his final posting Dec. 14. He was 87.

A celebration of his life will be held in January at the Veterans Memorial Building on Legion St., the date to be announced.

“He loved that building,” said Jean Law, his wife of 22 years.

The Laws were active members — she of the auxiliaries — of Laguna’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5868 and American Legion Post 222, where he served as adjutant, finance officer, historian and newsletter editor.


Recently, he put out a plea in the newsletter for volunteers to serve as honor guards at the funerals of veterans who had passed to the “Post Everlasting.”

A volunteer honor guard is available daily at national cemeteries. The closest one to Laguna is in Riverside, where the sergeant major was to be honored with a full military graveside service.

The military ceremony was preceded by a funeral mass at St. Catherine of Siena Church. Scott Latimer, who followed his grandfather’s footsteps into the Marines, flew here from Ohio to carry Jim’s ashes into the church, wearing the Marine’s dress uniform. Retired Marine Col. Charles Quilter III and Post 222 assistant adjutant Richard Moore and 2nd Vice Commander Dave Connell will serve as escorts.

“His was a life richly lived, illustrative of the ‘Greatest Generation’ of Americans who came from World War II to stand tall for their county in their communities,” said Jean Law, who was at her husband’s bedside when he died.


Jim Law joined the U.S. Marines in 1937 and served for 30 years, retiring as a sergeant major, the highest rank possible for a noncommissioned officer. He devoted his life after military service to helping veterans. He was an icon at the Laguna Beach Memorial Day Services in Heisler Park.

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., he moved to Laguna in 1950.

Sgt. Major Law died at 10:30 p.m. at South Coast Medical Center.

He had been diagnosed earlier this year with pulmonary fibrosis, but his death was not thought to be imminent, friends said.

Late on the night of Dec. 13, however, he complained of a stomach pain and went to the emergency room, where X-rays showed an obstruction.

Doctors wanted him to stay at the hospital overnight in preparation for an operation, but he refused.

“The next morning they told me that his lungs were worse than they had thought and recommended no surgery,” Jean Law said. “They said let him go peacefully.

“The last nurse came on duty at 7 p.m. He said don’t worry, we’ll take care of this Marine. I was so touched.


“There were no beeping machines, no pumps — just quiet,” his widow said. “It just like he went to sleep. I was holding one hand, and his daughter Kathleen was holding the other one for the final two hours. It was very fast, and I know that is what he wanted.”

Besides Jean, Law is survived by daughters Maryanne Mabrey and Kathleen Latimer; step-daughter Elizabeth Torres; step-sons Stephen, Richard and Chris Tomlin; 17 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He was predeceased by his son, John, and step-son Michael Tomlin.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation.