WWII veteran Daniel Murry McKennell dies at 86

A child of the Great Depression, Daniel Murry McKennell lived simply and was always careful with his money, his daughter said. But he gave his time away extravagantly -- mowing his neighbors' lawns, plowing their driveways and taking them to doctors' appointments well into his 80s, she said.

"He would always talk to his neighbors," his daughter Danielle McKennell Learned of Westbury said. "He mowed their lawns in the summer, he cleared their snow in the winter."

The World War II veteran died at home in Bellmore Aug. 27 of melanoma. He was 86.


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McKennell was born in Brooklyn in 1926 and grew up in a close-knit community in Forest Hills, Queens, Learned said. McKennell's mother, Diane Barret McKennell, died giving birth to him. He was raised by his father, John McKennell, and his stepmother, Anna, Learned said. In fact, he only learned that his stepmother was not his biological mother when he enlisted in the Navy and his parents told him so he could fill out his paperwork accurately, Learned said.

McKennell left high school to join the Navy in 1944, and spent two years on the USS Maquoketa, a tanker that transported gasoline and other fuels to ships in remote locations in the Pacific, Learned said.

Two years later, he came home to Queens and met Phyllis Pechin at a pub in the neighborhood. She was nine years older than he, a divorcee with a young daughter. But he told someone immediately, "I'm going to marry her," Learned said.

The two soon married and had two children of their own, Danielle and Brian, and moved to Bellmore, to the home where they both lived throughout their lives, Learned said.

McKennell supported the family working two jobs: loading produce into trucks for Bohack's grocery store in Brooklyn at night, and stocking merchandise at the Abraham & Straus department store in Hempstead during the day, Learned said.

In about 1980, he went to work for the U.S. Postal Service, delivering mail in Massapequa. He retired from that job about 12 years later.

"I only saw my dad Friday nights and Saturdays, and then he was tired," his daughter said of her early childhood. "But he always made sure we had what we needed. We always had a family vacation in the summer."

Learned said her father lived frugally to the end, his most luxurious purchase being a color television soon after they came on the market. But his friendship was priceless.

A service was held for him Wednesday at Calverton National Cemetery, where he was buried, Learned said.

McKennell was predeceased by his wife and younger brother, Charles. He is survived by his daughter; son Brian of Bellmore; stepdaughter Carole Zieris of Gatesville, Texas; seven grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and one great-great-granddaughter.

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