John and Delores Moaney

Delores and John Moaney smile for a photograph. Delores is wearing a white dress and holding up a ball in her right hand. John is wearing a white shirt and black pants; his arms are behind his back.
Delores and John Moaney ca. 1953

Courtesy of Delores Moaney
Eisenhower National Historic Site

Introduction

For decades John and Delores Moaney were there, through it all alongside Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower

From 1942 until Dwight Eisenhower’s death in 1969—from the battlefields of World War II to the White House, and from their home in Gettysburg and beyond—John Moaney served as Ike’s personal valet and near constant companion, while for nearly thirty years his wife, Delores Moaney, served as the Eisenhowers’ cook and housekeeper and later as Mamie’s personal maid.

But to Dwight, Mamie, and the entire Eisenhower family, however, John and Delores Moaney were much more than just valet and housekeeper; they were close friends, indeed, they were considered part of the family.

 

A Sergeant Named Moaney & A General Named Eisenhower: 1942-1945


John Alton Moaney was born on June 7, 1914, in Easton, Talbot County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, a son of John W. Moaney (1886-1956) and Mary Ethel Drake Moaney (1889-1976). The Moaney family long had ties to that part of the Eastern Shore. Indeed, according to one source, John’s great-grandfather was reportedly enslaved on a large plantation along the Wye River near Easton. [1] After attending local schools for a few years, young Moaney found employment working as a landscaper, gardener, and as a farm laborer. In October 1941, two months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Moaney, at age 27, was drafted into the United States Army. Following America’s entry into the global conflict, Moaney was sent to London where he joined the 751st Quartermaster Company. He remained with this unit throughout the spring and summer of 1942, largely performing vehicle maintenance and upkeep.

Then, in the summer of 1942, his life changed forever.

 
A faded yellow draft registration card of John Moaney lists some biographical information
John Moaney's Draft Registration Card ca. 1940

National Archives and Records Administration

 



A call had gone out for volunteers to serve on a general’s personal staff. The identity of the general was not revealed but even if it was, it would not have made a difference, for, according to John Moaney, he had never before heard of a general named Dwight David Eisenhower. By this time a corporal, Moaney responded and interviewed in London for the position. As Moaney later remembered, those conducting the interview (Eisenhower was not among them) made it clear that the position would essentially be that of a “houseboy;” that he would be expected to cook for, care for, even help dress the general; that he was to be the general’s personal valet who was to help the general feel “at home.” And even though he was to become part of the general’s personal staff there was to be absolutely no military formality. He was not to discuss anything pertaining to the military or the war; he was not to salute the general nor even stand at attention. [2] Moaney must have surely impressed, for he was one among the three men who were selected for Eisenhower’s personal staff. This would thus be the start of a nearly 30-year relationship between John Moaney and Dwight Eisenhower.

After being selected for ths position, Moaney was ordered to Telegraph Cottage, on the outskirts of London, a small house in a secluded setting that General Eisenhower used every now and then as a personal get-away, and from where he helped plan what later became known as Operations Torch and Overlord. It was there, at Telegraph Cottage, where Moaney and Eisenhower for the first time met. They soon discovered they had some things in common, including a love of the outdoors and a background in farming. Ike spent most of his time at that point in the war cooped up in a London hotel, except for weekends and some scattered evenings when he would be at Telegraph Cottage. Moaney, meanwhile, remained at Telegraph Cottage, keeping house with several other members of Ike’s personal staff.

Ike often used Telegraph Cottage as a refuge; a place where he could unwind and relax. Moaney remembered that most of the time there General Eisenhower would take walks around the yard, read, play the piano, and otherwise just “lounge around.” He awoke early, which meant that John Moaney also had to wake up early. [3] Moaney prepared Ike’s meals. For breakfast, it would usually be a fried egg, a piece of bacon, and toast with pineapple jam, which Ike washed down with a cup of orange juice. Eisenhower “always liked just plain cooking,” said Moaney, nothing ever really fancy, and that lunch, most of the time, was what Moaney called “ordinary.” During their time together at Telegraph Cottage, Eisenhower taught Moaney how to prepare vegetable soup and potato salad just the way he liked them. Unofficially, Moaney was also placed in charge of Eisenhower’s two beloved Scottish terrier dogs: Telek and Khaki. Moaney grew attached to the dogs and took special care of the puppies Telek and Khaki produced throughout the war, naming each one when they were born. At Telegraph Cottage Moaney would also help guests with their bags, shine their shoes, make coffee, open the shutters, set the table, wash the dishes, and start up coal fires. All-in-all, he said, he did “a little bit of everything." [4]

 
John Moaney, wearing his World War II Army uniform, stands next to an unidentified young woman
Sergeant John Moaney, US Army, With Unidentified Woman ca. 1945

Eisenhower National Historic Site

Promoted to Sergeant, Moaney accompanied General Eisenhower to Africa during Operation Torch, and remained with him daily during this campaign. After D-Day in June 1944, Moaney remained in London for only “about a week or so” before he traveled to France to join up once again with Eisenhower. He remained with the Supreme Allied Commander for the duration of the conflict, as the General moved from place to place across western Europe. Whenever Ike traveled, it was Moaney who helped pack everything up—the footlockers, the gear, equipment, and the General’s uniforms and clothing. He also accompanied Eisenhower whenever Ike visited with his top lieutenants.

Following the end of the war, most of Eisenhower’s staff were eligible for discharge and most elected to return to civilian life. But not John Moaney. Moaney chose to continue working for Dwight Eisenhower, who was now the Army Chief of Staff. As a five-star general, Eisenhower was entitled to retain a personal staff and Ike was glad Sgt. Moaney elected to stay. [5]

 

John & Delores and Dwight & Mamie: 1946-1952

 
Delores Moaney stands for a photograph; she is wearing a dress. In the background is an image of the US Capitol Building
Delores Moaney ca. 1944

Courtesy of Delores Moaney
Eisenhower National Historic Site

Returning stateside in 1946, John Moaney married Delores Butler, who also was originally from the Eastern Shore. Born on November 14, 1916, Delores had grown up within a few miles of Moaney and their families were well acquainted. [6] Delores later said that she knew John during their childhoods, though he was a couple years older. After their nuptials, John and Delores Moaney lived for a time in a home at Ft. Meyer, Virginia, and they also maintained an apartment in Washington, D.C. John continued to work for General Eisenhower, who at this time was working on his book Crusade in Europe. In 1948, however, Eisenhower accepted the position of President of Columbia University and the Moaneys traveled to New York City with Dwight and Mamie. It was there that Delores Moaney began working for the Eisenhowers, helping prepare meals for the family and assisting with day-to-day chores. John Moaney later recalled that while Dwight served as President of Columbia, their house “was all full of help—they had all kinds of help there: aids and cooks. That was before Delores started cooking. She stayed there—she wasn’t cooking in the beginning; she was just taking care of Mrs. Eisenhower, or Mrs. John Eisenhower,” who was Barbara Eisenhower, Dwight and Mamie’s daughter-in-law. Moaney also joked that this was also the first time he had ever seen Dwight Eisenhower in civilian clothing. “He didn’t have but three good suits,” Moaney later remembered. “He’d wear one one day and one the next day—then he’d start back over again.” [7]


It was while serving as president of Columbia that Eisenhower took up painting, a hobby he honed for the rest of his life, and John Moaney was there the day Ike first put brush to canvas. According to Eisenhower, he was watching an artist work on a portrait of Mamie. One day when he finished painting, the artist and Mamie toured their New York city residence to find a proper place to hang the portrait once it was finished. Now alone with an easel, paints, and an unfinished portrait of Mamie in front of him, Dwight Eisenhower decided that he wanted to “make use of the paints remaining on [the artist’s] palette to try poking away on my own.” But there was nothing upon which to paint. Just then, John Moaney walked into the room, and Ike had an idea. He told Moaney to go into his room and find a little wooden box he knew to be in there, knock out the sides, then “take any kind of white cloth you can find, and stretch it on the board by tacking the edges.” Within just a few minutes, Moaney returned with the box sans the sides and with a clean dust cloth fastened onto it. It was John Moaney who thus provided Dwight Eisenhower with his very first canvas. [8]

 
A painting by Eisenhower of Telegraph Cottage features green grass, blue skies, and a yellow two-story cottage with reddish brown roof. I tree without leaves stands to left of cottage in painting.
Dwight Eisenhower presented this painting he did of Telegraph Cottage to his friend and valet, John Moaney

Found at http://blog.americanheritage1.com/blog/bid/57074/DWIGHT-EISENHOWER-OIL-PAINTING-TELEGRAPH-COTTAGE-WORLD-WAR-11

John Moaney remembered that Eisenhower “would paint every chance he had,” and this was especially true in Ike’s later days, post-presidency. Apparently, however, Eisenhower was not fond of most of his artwork and threw most of his paintings away. He later discovered that Sgt. Moaney would rescue Ike’s discarded art from the trash. From then on, Eisenhower painted a large red “X” over the paintings he threw away, but this did not deter Moaney from rescuing these ones, too. But not all of John Moaney’s Eisenhower artwork was gathered from the refuse pile. In what was a very heartfelt gift, Eisenhower, in 1949, presented Moaney with a painting he did of Telegraph Cottage, the place where the two of the met and first got to know one another back in 1942. [9]

 
A smiling John Moaney stands for a photograph; he is wearing a white shirt and grey pants
John Moaney ca. 1950 in France

Eisenhower National Historic Site

In 1950, Dwight Eisenhower took an extended leave-of-absence from Columbia to accept the position as Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and to assume command of all NATO forces in Europe. Breaking the news to Moaney, Eisenhower said, “Well, I guess this is the end of the line for us. You’ll have to stay here with your young wife,” while he traveled to Paris to begin his new duties. According to Eisenhower’s son John, Moaney insisted on going with Eisenhower, telling Ike in jest that he had known him much longer than he had known Delores. [10] So, while Delores remained at home in New York with her two daughters who were still in school, John Moaney accompanied Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower to Europe.

After two years overseas and after much convincing, Dwight Eisenhower decided to return to the United States and enter the political arena, running for the presidency of the United States. This decision meant that Eisenhower would have to resign from the military, which he did, during the summer of 1952. This also meant he would lose his personal military staff, including the service of Sgt. John Moaney. Eisenhower told this to Moaney and that the two of them would now be separated since he would no longer be entitled to Moaney’s service. As Ike later remembered the moment, Moaney “quietly replied that if I left the Army, he was going to do the same. He did not hesitate a second in casting his lot with me in my new undertaking.” Eisenhower warned that if he was elected president, Moaney would be reinstated in the Army at his old grade, and that if he lost the campaign then they both would be out of work. “I shall never forget his smiling answer,” recorded Eisenhower. “‘Don’t worry, General,’ he said, ‘I think you and I can always make a living.’” [11]

Of course, the enormously popular Dwight Eisenhower did not lose the campaign; in fact, he won by a landslide, carrying 442 Electoral Votes compared to just 89 for his Democratic Party challenger, Adlai Stevenson. He triumphed over Stevenson again in 1956, this time carrying 457 Electoral Votes. In both elections, Eisenhower also trounced Stevenson in the popular vote. On January 20, 1953, Dwight David Eisenhower took the Oath of Office to become the 34th President of the United States. And when he and Mamie once again relocated to yet another residence—this time the White House—John and Delores Moaney went along with them.

 

The White House Years: 1953-1961


In terms of duties for John and Delores Moaney, the White House years were little different from those previous, except for the change in venue. As in years past, the Moaneys attended to Dwight and Mamie’s personal needs. Officially, John Moaney was Ike’s valet, while Delores was sometimes identified as one of Mamie’s maids and a cook. Each day, John was responsible for waking up the president and reminding him of the day’s schedule, but only very seldomly did President Eisenhower oversleep. Typically, when John would enter the president’s bedroom at the appointed time between 645-7:00 a.m. every morning, Ike was already awake. Moaney would sometimes bring Ike his breakfast and the morning newspapers. He would also set out the clothing Eisenhower was to wear—his socks, shoes, pants, shirt, jacket, even his underwear—and helped him get dressed. Moaney also packed luggage for the many trips Eisenhower took as president. And even though the White House chef and large kitchen staff prepared most of the meals, occasionally John and especially Delores Moaney cooked for the Eisenhowers as well, especially since Delores knew exactly what Ike and Mamie liked, and how they liked it prepared. She became known in the press as “the expert in the White House kitchen." [12]

In one tale, oft told, Dwight Eisenhower authorized John Moaney to shoot and kill the squirrels that were roughing up the putting green that the American Public Golfing Association had installed on the South Lawn of the White House. Apparently, Eisenhower’s predecessor, Harry Truman, liked to feed the White House wildlife and the squirrels had become quite tame. Ike cared less for squirrels than did Truman, and once told Moaney: “The next time you see one of those squirrels go near my putting green, take a gun and shoot it!” Moaney did not like the idea of discharging firearms on the White House grounds and so, working with Secret Service, they trapped the pesky animals and removed them to other locations. [13]

 
President Eisenhower helps Grandson David put a golf ball; John Moaney is standing at the hole, holding a flag
President Eisenhower helps grandson David with his golf game at Camp David while John Moaney looks on.

Eisenhower National Historic Site

Since Ike was an avid golfer, Moaney spent a lot of his time shagging Eisenhower’s golf balls, whether on the South Lawn of White House or at Augusta National or at Camp David or wherever Ike chose to play his preferred game. According to one report, Moaney was able to “judge his boss’ distance so well that he places himself so the ball stops almost at his feet. When the president shifts clubs, Moaney changes his distance accordingly.” In addition to golf outings, Moaney accompanied Eisenhower on his various fishing trips. Several times, it was just the two of them in a rowboat on a lake casting their lines. [14]

As is the case with all modern Presidents, Eisenhower as Chief Executive and Head of State traveled often, all over the country, and to a good part of the world. In almost every case, whether stateside or to distant countries, he was accompanied by the ever-present John Moaney. And when Mamie traveled with Ike, Delores Moaney traveled with them as well. This was true whether the purpose of Ike’s trips was official business or simply for pleasure. The Moaneys traveled with the Eisenhowers on their vacations, whether it was to Palm Springs, California, Augusta, Georgia, or elsewhere. Of course, in many places in the 1950s, segregated facilities were commonplace. According to Delores Moaney, Ike and Mamie would oftentimes threaten to leave a place and patronize another business if the Moaneys were not allowed to accompany them. As Delores once recalled, “The President would tell them that if they couldn’t accept us, then they couldn’t accept him." [15]

 
A seated Delores Moaney, wearing a white dress, reads a book to the young granddaughters of Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower
Delores Moaney reads to Dwight and Mamie's granddaughters at Camp David, 1954

Eisenhower National Historic Site

It was tough for the Press to find out much about John and Delores Moaney, and this was by design. Throughout his years as President Eisenhower’s valet, John Moaney had “one hard, firm rule,” said one of his friends; “He won’t talk to reporters.” While he was always ready with a pleasant greeting and warm smile, Moaney very seldom, if ever, talked to the press. [16]

 

Perhaps the proudest day in John Moaney’s long career serving Dwight Eisenhower came on June 11, 1957, when the President and First Lady welcomed Moaney’s family and friends from Moaney’s hometown church, the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Copperville, near Easton, Maryland, to the White House. John’s mother, Mary, was there, as were about 40 members of the church. President Eisenhower welcomed the group inside the Oval Office then they all stepped onto the patio for a photograph. “Moaney, a shy man of 43, edged to the back row and had to be urged by the cameraman to move down alongside the President, who cheerfully made room for him,” reported the Associated Press of the event. At that point, Mamie Eisenhower called for Delores Moaney to also report “front and center” for the photograph, at which Ike said, “My goodness we have to have Delores in this.” Said the report, John Moaney “beamed with pride” that day. [17]

 

The Moaneys at Gettysburg: 1955-1969


While serving the President and First Lady, John and Delores Moaney sometimes resided in the White House’s Third Floor Servants’ Quarters. Most of the time, they resided in the apartment they rented in Washington, D.C., but they also spent a good amount of time at the Eisenhowers’ home in Gettysburg.

In 1950, two years prior to Dwight’s first run at the White House, the Eisenhowers purchased a home and farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; it was the first—and, as it turned out, only—home they ever owned. Because of extensive renovations, however, it was not until 1955 that they “moved in.” By then, of course, Dwight was President of the United States.

John and Delores Moaney were provided with a room of their own on the first floor of the Eisenhowers’ Gettysburg home and whenever the Eisenhowers traveled to Gettysburg, the Moaneys traveled there with them. In many cases, John and Delores were sent ahead to prepare the house for Dwight and Mamie’s arrival. While there, John and Delores Moaney did just about anything and everything for the First Family. Among other things, John would lay out Ike’s clothing each morning, set up the grill at the tea house, serve formal meals, tend to the vegetable garden, and continue to shag Eisenhower’s golf balls. Delores would be housekeeper and cook, and together they would wash the dishes and prepare for any and all visits from government or military officials.

While the White House remained their primary residence during the remainder of Dwight’s Presidency, the Eisenhowers used their home as a retreat, a getaway, a refuge. They would oftentimes spend weekends at the farm and some Holidays there as well. In all, it is believed that between 1955 and 1961, the Eisenhowers spent a total of 365 days at their home in Gettysburg.

 
With John Moaney looking on, smiling, President Eisenhower cooks up some food on a grill
President Eisenhower and John Moaney Grilling Up Some Steaks

Eisenhower National Historic Site


They would spend much more time there, of course, following Ike’s presidency. After eight years, Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency ended on January 20, 1961 and he looked ahead to a quiet and peaceful retirement at his Gettysburg farm. His successor, John F. Kennedy, almost immediately reinstated Eisenhower’s five-star general’s rank that he had resigned when he first ran for president in 1952. The reinstatement of rank meant that Eisenhower was again able to retain a personal staff and this included Sergeant John Moaney, who was then 47 years of age. After having served Ike so well and so faithfully in World War II and through the White House years, now John Moaney—along with his wife Delores—would serve the general and his family in this next chapter of his life: retirement.

 
A young David Eisenhower stands with John Moaney on the banks of a pond on the Eisenhower property; both are holding fishing rods. A home stands in the background.
John Moaney and David Eisenhower, Dwight and Mamie's grandson, enjoy some fishing at the Eisenhowers' Gettysburg farm.

Eisenhower National Historic Site

As the years passed, the pace of life for the Eisenhowers, once so busy, began to slow. Visitors to the farm became fewer. As John Moaney later put it, “Everybody is getting along in age now and satisfied to stay home and read the newspapers.” Still, there was much to keep the Moaneys occupied. John continued his work as Dwight’s valet and also tackled more of the farm work as well as maintaining the vegetable garden. Delores’s duties increased following the resignation in 1962 of Mamie’s long-serving personal maid, Rose Woods. Now, in addition to cooking for the Eisenhowers and providing general housework, Delores cared for Mamie’s clothing and set the former First Lady’s hair every night. The Moaneys also continued to travel with the Eisenhowers. In 1962, when Dwight and Mamie undertook an extensive, thirty-day trip to Europe; John and Delores traveled with them.

John and Delores grew very close with Dwight and Mamie’s four grandchildren during the retirement years at the farm, with John and grandson David forming an especially strong bond. In a memoir about his time with Ike and Mamie at their Gettysburg farm entitled Going Home To Glory, David Eisenhower wrote fondly about John Moaney. “Moaney seemed jovial, with a roly-poly walk and a ready laugh that was really a giggle,” wrote David Eisenhower, who also remembered that “Moaney was always humming a song of his own, familiar-sounding but uncategorizable. He carried a tune that resembled a Stephen Foster melody or spiritual, but the words were improvised. ‘Good Lord, I’m Going Away,’ he sang, morning and night, waiting on the table, or setting up trays, vacuuming the rugs or polishing the silver.” David recalled that he and John Moaney would oftentimes go fishing and that Moaney would often set up targets for David’s shooting practice. Moaney would also set up the film projector for the family to watch movies and would continue to spend time in the garden. David Eisenhower remembered that he and Moaney used to joke about Ike’s temper when he got into a foul mood. [18]

Years later, John and Delores Moaney were guests at David’s December 22, 1968, wedding, which was a big event since he was marrying President Nixon’s daughter, Julie. There, they were asked to deliver a slice of the cake to Dwight Eisenhower, who, sadly, was at that time hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center, forced watched the ceremony on a closed circuit television.
 

Eisenhower's "Irreplaceable Man"

 
Dwight Eisenhower, wearing a grey suit, and John Moaney, wearing a white shirt and black bow tie, smile
Dwight Eisenhower called John Moaney his "irreplaceable man."

Eisenhower National Historic Site

During all their years together, Dwight Eisenhower never called John Moaney, “John;” instead, he was either “Sergeant” or just “Moaney.” [19] But he always spoke fondly of him. In his 1963 book, Mandate for Change Ike wrote that Moaney had always been “immensely valuable,” indeed, “almost indispensable, to me,” while in his popular 1967 publication At Ease: Stories I Tell My Friends, an aged Eisenhower wrote: "Of Sergeant John Moaney, I have only this to say: He and I have been inseparable for almost a quarter of a century; in my daily life, he is just about the irreplaceable man." [20]

And after nearly 27 years of continual service, through all the trials and the triumphs, John Moaney, Ike’s “irreplaceable man,” was with the Eisenhower family at Walter Reed when, on March 28, 1969, Dwight David Eisenhower passed away. Delores Moaney was there, too, and both, remembered grandson David, shed many tears. [21]

Before he died, Eisenhower saw to it that John Moaney be promoted to the rank of Master Sergeant, and in his will bequeathed to his faithful valet and good friend his Yellow Gold Rolex watch along with other personal items along with a cash sum in the amount of $5,000. A higher and greater honor came when Master Sergeant John Moaney was named as one of Eisenhower’s ten Honorary Pall Bearers during his State Funeral. Later in 1969 and in recognition of his many years of service to Eisenhower, John Moaney also received the Legion of Merit medal, one of the army’s highest awards. [22]

 

With Mamie at Gettysburg:1969-1977

 
Mamie Eisenhower is seated; standing next to her is Delores Moaney. On a table in front of Mamie is a cake.
Mamie Eisenhower and Delores Moaney in 1977

Courtesy of Barbara Eisenhower
Eisenhower National Historic Site


Dwight Eisenhower was at Walter Reed for the final ten months of his life, and John Moaney had visited him frequently during the general’s long, final illness, sometimes bringing him vegetables from his garden at the Gettysburg farm. “Every time I’d go down and see him,” recalled Moaney several years later, “he’d just look at me and smile, and he’d say, ‘Moaney, is you going or coming?’ And he wanted me to go back to the farm. Every time I’d go over Monday morning and see him, he’d say, ‘You going back to the farm now?’ . . .So I spent most of the time up here [at Gettysburg]." [23]

For John Moaney, the Eisenhowers’ Gettysburg farm was the most pleasant place he had ever lived. Delores enjoyed life on the farm as well, especially when compared to the White House. “I couldn’t wait to get away from the White House,” said Delores. “It just wasn’t a place to, you know, attract my attention." [24]

 
Delores and John Moaney, both wearing white, stand and smile for a photograph. In the background are some palm trees and a large building.
Delores and John Moaney ca. 1967 in California

Courtesy of Delores Moaney
Eisenhower National Historic Site

Following the death of Dwight Eisenhower, John Moaney retired from the army. But instead of heading out now on their own, he and Delores remained with Mamie, fulfilling a promise that they would continue to care for her following Ike’s death. Splitting time between their home in Washington, D.C. and at Gettysburg, they would often spend time with the now widowed former First Lady at the farm, having dinner with her, watching television, and celebrating birthdays and Holidays. This helped alleviate some of the loneliness Mamie felt with the loss of her husband. They would also help decorate for the Holidays, including Christmas, which was Mamie’s favorite time of the year. And, of course, they would continue to tend to Mamie’s needs. John continued to perform various chores around the house, while Delores prepared fresh cooked meals and took personal care of Mamie. The Moaneys also continued to travel with Mamie. In the Fall of 1969, the three of them—along with Secret Service agents—undertook an automobile trip to Boone, Iowa, to visit one of Mamie’s uncles. Along the way, they stopped in at the Truman Memorial Library and paid a visit to Ike’s grave in Abilene. [25]

Finally, in April 1977 and after so many years of service, John and Delores Moaney retired. After bidding an emotional goodbye to Mamie, the Moaneys returned to their home in Washington, D.C.

Sadly, however, John Moaney would not live to enjoy a long retirement.

 

The Deaths of John Moaney and Mamie Eisenhower


On February 20, 1978, Master Sergeant John Alton Moaney, the man who had quite literally traveled the world with Dwight Eisenhower as his valet, orderly, friend, and near constant companion from the trying days of World War II to the White House and to the Eisenhower’s humble home in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, passed away at Walter Reed Medical Center, succumbing to cancer just a few months shy of his 64th birthday. He was survived by his widow, Delores, his two stepdaughters, Sarah and Anne, four grandchildren, as well as five brothers and three sisters.

Funeral services for John Moaney were held on Friday, February 24, at the Asbury United Methodist Church in Easton, Maryland. 81-year-old Mamie Eisenhower, who at that point in her life rarely left her home, made the long journey from Gettysburg to Easton with her son, John, and his wife, Barbara, to attend the funeral. Following the service, the remains of Sergeant Moaney were buried with full military honors at the nearby Deshields Church Cemetery in Copperville. News of John Moaney’s death was printed in newspapers across the country.

Delores Moaney suffered another great personal loss just twenty months after she lost her husband, when her friend, Former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower died on November 1, 1979. Along with Mamie’s son John, his wife Barbara, and several other family members, a tearful Delores Moaney accompanied the remains of Mamie Eisenhower on the plane ride from Washington, D.C, to Abilene, Kansas, where they were interred alongside those of Dwight and the Eisenhowers’ first-born child, Doud, who died at age in 1921. In her will, Mamie bequeathed to Delores Moaney $5,000.

Following the death of Mamie Eisenhower, Delores Moaney returned to her home in Washington, D.C. In the mid-1980s, she returned to work for a time for another Eisenhower: Dwight and Mamie’s granddaughter, Susan Eisenhower. Delores sometimes cradled Susan as an infant in the White House; now, more than three decades later, she helped care for Susan’s children. [26]

 
Delores Moaney, wearing a white dress, sits on the bed in the Moaney room at the Eisenhower home in Gettysburg. A lamp is on in the background. A rocking chair and dresser also stands in the background.
Delores Moaney ca. 2005 in the room in which she resided with her husband John at the Eisenhowers' Gettysburg home.

Eisenhower National Historic Site

Delores Moaney and the Eisenhower National Historic Site


Throughout the rest of her life, Delores Moaney frequently returned to Gettysburg to visit the Eisenhower home, which had now become the Eisenhower National Historic Site. She was present as an invited guest when the Site first opened in June 1980. The Gettysburg Times reported that “National Park Service guides were a rapt audience for Delores Moaney, who reminisced as she walked through the house. They asked questions and jotted down notes as she described details of the home and of the Eisenhowers’ life there. . . .” [27] During that and subsequent visits, she remembered how she and John helped to decorate the home for Christmas.

The Eisenhower house was “just as” Delores Moaney remembered, except at that time, the room in which she and John resided was not part of the formal public house tour, and it would not be for another twenty-one years.

Finally, in 2001, after years of using it as an office space, the National Park Service renovated the Moaney’s room, refurbishing it to its 1967 appearance by using some of the same furniture that was there when the Moaneys occupied the room. Assisting with the renovation and refurbishment was Delores Moaney who provided descriptions of the room to NPS staff and who provided copies of photographs of her and John from her personal collection. “Before the Moaneys’ room was added to the [House] tour,” said NPS Supervisory Historian Carol Hegeman, “few visitors learned that an African American couple lived and worked in the house. Now visitors will learn how essential the Moaneys were to the running of the household and about the special relationship between General Eisenhower and Sergeant Moaney." [28]

Delores Moaney toured the renovated room in January 2005 when, at age 88, she visited the Eisenhower National Historic Site and reminisced about the place where she had spent so many years and made so many memories. And they were mostly good memories. During an earlier visit, Delores Moaney remembered that her years with the Eisenhowers were “fantastic,” and there were too many special memories to recall just one. [29]

Delores Moaney passed away on the night of September 14, 2014, in Washington, D.C., at age 98. She was laid to rest in Deshields Church Cemetery near Easton, Maryland, alongside the remains of her husband, John Moaney, who had passed away 36 years earlier. Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of Ike and Mamie, paid tribute to Delores, writing that she “remained an integral part of our family until the end of her life, forging all the while a continuing friendship between her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and ours.” [30] Upon learning of her death, the staff at the Eisenhower National Historic Site in Gettysburg also paid tribute to Delores: “Mrs. Moaney was a favorite among those of us on the ENHS staff. Whenever she came to visit the site or phoned us during the holidays, she was a delight to talk to—pleasant and vibrant with a great sense of humor. . . .As historians, we were fortunate to spend time over the years with such a wonderfully vital, tangible link to the past. But history aside, we were simply lucky to get to know such a cool lady." [31]

 
A granite headstone marks the grave site of John and Delores Moaney. An urn next to the grave has purple and white flowers.
The grave of John and Delores Moaney at the DeShields Cemetery near Easton, Maryland

NPS Photo

 

Notes


[1] Kelvin Adkins, “Nation’s Oldest Hereford Herd Is Here On The Shore,” The Daily Times (Salisbury, MD), 7/14/1970.
[2] John Moaney, Oral History Interview, July 21, 1972, by Dr. Maclyn Burg, Oral Historian, for Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, 3-7, Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Boyhood Home, available at: https://www.eisenhowerlibrary.gov/sites/default/files/research/oral-histories/oral-history-transcripts/moaney-john-328.pdf; hereafter referred to as Moaney, Oral History
[3] Ibid., 12. Moaney later recalled that during his 27 years with Eisenhower, he only overslept on two occasions, awaking after Eisenhower.
[4] Sam Childers, “Presidential Valets: Confidantes of the Wardrobe,” White House Historical Association, available at https://www.whitehousehistory.org/presidential-valets; Moaney, Oral History, 21
[5] Childers, “Presidential Valets.”
[6] Dolores had been married once before and had two daughters, Sarah and Anne Butler. According to several sources, John Moaney had also been married, having wed sometime prior to the war, but that he had tragically lost his wife in an automobile accident. Together, John and Dolores would not have any children.
[7] John Moaney, Oral History
[8] Dwight Eisenhower, At Ease: Stories I Tell My Friends (New York: The Doubleday Company, 1967), 340-341.
[9] Moaney Oral History, 57; Stephen Ambrose, Eisenhower: The President, Vol. II (New York: Touchstone Books, 1984), 629; Jean Edward Smith, Eisenhower in War and Peace (New York: Random House, 2013), 217.
[10] Childers, “Presidential Valets.”
[11] Dwight Eisenhower, Mandate for Change (New York: The Doubleday Company, 1963), 266.
[12 Ambrose, Vol. II, pg. 16; Childers. “Presidential Valets” ; Smith, 634-635.
[13] Ambrose, Vol. II, 75
[14] Merriman Smith, UP, “Mamie Is Not Limited On Cost of Farm House,” Kenosha News (Kenosha, WI), 3/16/1955, 12; John Barrington, INS, “Fair or Foul,” The Daily Herald (Jasper, IN), 3/31/1955, 7.
[15] Matthew Major, “Delores Moaney Returns To The Farm Where She Cared For The Eisenhowers,” The Gettysburg Times (Gettysburg, PA), 1/22/2005, 1,8.
[16] AP, “Eisenhower and Negro Valet Share A Mutual Devotion,” The News Journal (Wilmington, DE), 6/12/1957, 29.
[17] AP, “For Ike’s Valet And His Friends, It Was A Big Day,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, (Cedar Rapids, IA), 6/12/1957, 6.
[18] David Eisenhower with Julie Nixon Eisenhower, Going Home To Glory: A Memoir of Life With Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010), 26, 28, 138-140.
[19] Merle Miller, Ike the Soldier: As They Knew Him (New York: G.P. Putnam & Sons, 1987), 391.
[20] Eisenhower, Mandate for Change, 266; Eisenhower, At Ease, 322n.
[21] Ibid., 276-277
[22] “Out of the Past,” The Gettysburg Times (Gettysburg, PA), 10/27/1979, 4.
[23] Moaney, Oral History, 117.
[24] Moaney, Oral History, 113; Delores Moaney quoted in Gettysburg Times, 1/22/2005, 8.
[25] AP, “Mamie Visits Ike’s Tomb,” Delaware County Daily Times (Chester, PA), 9/18/1969, 3.
[26] “Susan Eisenhower Returns To Her Old Stomping Grounds,” The York Dispatch (York, Pennsylvania), 11/11/1986, 5.
[27] Nancy Di Blasi, Eisenhower Home Is Dedicated,” The Gettysburg Times (Gettysburg, PA), 6/30/1980, 1-2.
[28] “Eisenhower Site Opens Room Where Master Sgt. Moaney and Wife Stayed,” The Evening Sun (Hanover, PA), 5/24/2001, E-9.
[29] Nancy Poster, “Display is Tribute to Ike’s ‘Irreplaceable Man,” The Evening Sun (Hanover, PA), 2/4/2001, 1, 5.
[30] Susan Eisenhower, “Without Words: A Year of Sadness and Joy,” 10/22/2014, available at https://susaneisenhower.com/2014/10/22/without-words-a-year-of-sadness-and-joy/
[31] Eisenhower National Historic Site facebook post, 9/15/2014, https://www.facebook.com/EisenhowerNPS/

Last updated: November 10, 2021

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