James Gorman Keeney, a former Sweetheart Cup Co. worker and World War II paratrooper, died from complications of heart disease and diabetes Sunday at his Finksburg home. He was 81.
Mr. Keeney was born and raised on a farm in Savage. He attended Howard County public schools until leaving to help support himself.
In 1943, he enlisted in the Army, and after completing paratrooper training, he joined the 17th Airborne Division. He later served with the 101st Airborne Division, better known as the Screaming Eagles.
He was deployed to Europe in 1944 and saw combat in France, Italy and Germany.
"He said that he and other paratroopers would make earlier jumps before battles so that the Army would have a better idea of what was happening," said his wife of 27 years, the former Edith Smeltzer, a retired Social Security Administration program leader. "Sometimes they had to hide until they could escape and find a way to get the information they gathered back to the Allies."
After being captured and held prisoner in a barn by German soldiers, Mr. Keeney kicked out a plank and escaped. "He believed that the Germans were planning to kill all of their prisoners," Mrs. Keeney said.
During the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, Mr. Keeney, a private, was at Bastogne with other paratroopers of the 101st Airborne.
"He said it was very cold and the ground was frozen so solid that they couldn't dig foxholes and were forced to sleep on the ground," Mrs. Keeney said.
After the war, Mr. Keeney returned to Baltimore, where he worked in an ink factory mixing inks and later at Sweetheart Cup in Owings Mills, from which he retired in 1976.
Mr. Keeney enjoyed traveling to Michigan and Arizona. He also liked steaming crabs, which he served to family and friends.
At his request, no services were held.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Keeney is survived by a son, James G. Keeney Jr. of Odenton; two sisters, Lois Southworth and Joyce Ertle, both of Baltimore; and a granddaughter. He was married for 32 years to Irma White, who died in 1974.