Marian G. Canney, a mainstay of the faculty at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School for 45 years and a military widow who for almost 70 years hoped, prayed and waited for the return of her highly decorated husband’s remains from a Korean battlefield, died Sept. 9 at the Visitation monastery in Washington. She was 98.

The cause was liver cancer, said a daughter, Mary Lou Canney.

Mrs. Canney was chief of the department of religion and a counselor to students at Visitation, a Catholic school of about 500 girls in grades 9 through 12. The school described her as “devout and future-oriented, the embodiment of a joyful optimist” in a monthly newsletter. She retired in 2017.

She was the widow of John J. Canney Jr., a Marine Corps major who was killed in combat on Nov. 28, 1950, near the Chosin Reservoir, a barren and frigid area of North Korea, the ground so frozen that soldiers needed explosives to dig foxholes.

Notable deaths in 2019: Elijah Cummings, Cokie Roberts, Toni Morrison and others we have lost this year

shareShare
Don Imus | Don Imus, who spent more than half a century in radio and television skating along the edge of propriety and occasionally falling into the abyss of the unacceptable, died Dec. 27 at a hospital in College Station, Tex. He was 79. In a roller-coaster career in which he grew chummy with prominent politicians, repeatedly got suspended or fired for offensive cracks, abused drugs and touted health foods, Mr. Imus won a loyal following, made millions and transformed himself from a bad-boy DJ into a host whose program became a nearly mandatory stop for presidential candidates. Read the obituary (Richard Drew/AP)

He was executive officer of a Marine Corps battalion, and his unit came under heavy fire from attacking enemy troops as close as 20 yards.

He was posthumously awarded a Navy Cross, the highest decoration for valor in combat after the Medal of Honor.

“Without regard for his own personal safety, [he] courageously moved among the defense positions and directed the fire of his men, lending words of encouragement . . . until he was mortally wounded,” read the citation.

His remains were never found.

His wife of seven years was 29 years old at the time and the mother of their three small children. “My Mom never considered remarrying after our Dad was killed,” Mary Lou Canney wrote in an email. “I feel like she always kept him alive for us with pictures everywhere and stories [about] summers at the beach, holidays . . . trips together.”

Still classified as missing in action, John Canney was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Hattie Johnson, a civilian staffer in the military unit that monitors POW/MIA issues, said the work to identify and return Canney’s remains and those of other service members is ongoing. There will be a burial place at Arlington National Cemetery for him if his family wants, she said.

Marian Elisabeth Gallagher was born in Washington on Jan. 18, 1921. She graduated from Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in 1938 and from Visitation’s Junior College in 1940. In 1942, she graduated from Trinity College in the District.

She married Canney in 1943 and accompanied him on Marine Corps assignments. After his death, she “had to really reflect on how she would proceed,” her daughter wrote, adding “that faith, family and friends would be her guiding focus.”

She got help and support from her sisters and parents in Washington and her husband’s family in Massachusetts, where she vacationed with her children at her husband’s family beach home in Mattapoisett.

When her last child went off to college, so did Mrs. Canney, pursuing graduate studies in theology and philosophy at Georgetown University. She joined the Visitation faculty in 1971. She introduced courses in comparative religion and bioethics, and counseled individual students on a range of issues, including drug use and pregnancy. For a time, she was an assistant to the head of the school.

She dressed impeccably, favoring suits and hats. To a student with whom she was especially pleased, she would say, “You’re a peach!”

Rarely if ever did she talk about being a widow, but there was always a silent hope for more information about her husband, family and friends said.

Survivors include three children, Mary Lou Canney and John J. Canney III, both of Washington, and Thomas Canney of Chicago; eight grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; and three great-great-grandchildren.