It was former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, the Boston Herald reported, who told Mrs. Dunn what he believed to be her husband’s fate. “Maureen,” he told her after a trip to China, “I feel they know what happened to Joe, but do I think you’ll ever see him walk through the door again? No.’’
In the early 1980s, Joe was declared presumed killed in action and was given a military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. A decade later, Joe Dunn II went to China. He returned with a bucket and eating utensils believed to have been made of scrap metal from his father’s plane. Joe’s remains have not been found.
Maureen Alice Hoey was born Sept. 23, 1940, in Boston, the daughter of Irish immigrants. She and Joe met on a blind date and were married in 1965.
She said their last hours together before he left for Vietnam in 1967 always remained clear in her mind, “as if it happened yesterday.”
“Tears came to my eyes . . . and Joe kept saying, ‘Please don’t cry. I’ll be fine. I promise you I’ll come back,’ ” she once recalled in an interview with the Herald. “The next day I took him to the airport and as he kissed me goodbye he told me again, ‘I promise, I’ll be back.’ Then he walked away.”
For years, Mrs. Dunn kept her husband’s name as their listing in the phone book. She lived in Randolph, Mass., and supported herself and her son as a hairdresser and a floral and interior designer. Having discovered her talent for political activism, she became the first woman elected to the town’s board of selectmen.
Mrs. Dunn confessed that activism did not come naturally to her. “They made me do this,’’ she told the Patriot Ledger of Quincy, Mass., referring to government officials and what she considered their insufficient cooperation. “They made me become a person I’m not fond of sometimes. But I had to do this to get this done.”
Survivors include her son, Joseph P. Dunn II of Hyannis, Mass.; two brothers; a sister; and a grandson, who, like her son, is named for her husband. The Dunns’ story is recounted in the book “The Search for Canasta 404: Love, Loss, and the POW/MIA Movement,” written by Mrs. Dunn and reporter Melissa B. Robinson.
Colleen Shine, of Arlington County, lost her father, an Air Force pilot, in the Vietnam War. Like Mrs. Dunn, she spent years trying to find him, or at least what became of him.
Because of her efforts, the remains of Lt. Col. Anthony Shine were discovered, and in 1996, he was buried at Arlington. She said Mrs. Dunn’s determination helped inspire her own.
“To look in the face of someone who had such a great love for her husband that never died,” Shine reflected. “Her loyalty to him was to the end.”