James R. Hufnagel

NO. 17406  •  30 April 1927 – 30 June 2000

Died in New York, NY
Interred in Ferncliff Cemetery, Hartsdale, NY

James Raymond Hufnagel was born the third of four sons to Edward K. and Nell Torbert Hufnagel, descendants of early Murphysboro settlers, Catholic Germans who came from North Rhine Westphalia, to Murphysboro, IL. Jim attended St. Andrews Roman Catholic School, taught by nuns, and the Murphysboro Township High School, graduating at the head of the class. He was an altar boy at St. Andrews Church and also worked hard riding his bicycle to distribute newspapers. One day, he built a rocket and managed to launch it through the school window. It landed on the roof of the building across the street, prompting the arrival of the town firemen.

In May 1945, Jim enlisted in the Navy, following the example of his older brothers, William E. and Eugene Hufnagel, already serving on the Navy destroyers USS Cole DD 155, and USS Braine DD630. Jim earned a Congressional appointment to USNA at Annapolis, MD; however, during the admission medical examination he was found to be nearsighted and was rejected. Desperately hoping to correct the condition, he started all sorts of eye exercises and was sent to boot camp at the Naval Training Center in Great Lakes, IL He then served on the USS Reino Mercedes and at USNTC Bainbridge, MD.

In November 1945, the Navy sent him to Union College in Schenectady, NY, but in early 1946 he earned another Congressional appointment, but this time to West Point. As a cadet, Jim wore the gold stars for his academic excellence and was known to be quiet yet always was available to help his classmates with their studies. He was an avid chess player and a member of the Chess Club, the Model Railroad Club, and the Russian Club.

After graduation, Jim joined the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Ft. Meade and, in September 1950, received orders to the Far East Command. He reported in October to Camp Stoneman, CA, and, several weeks later, sailed to Korea. Before Thanksgiving, he arrived at Inchon. On arrival, together with several classmates, he was assigned to the 72d Tank Battalion, 2d Infantry Division. During 1950‑51, Jim served in the Korean War with that group, initially as a platoon leader in Company B. In April 1951, he was wounded in action at Sangjnunjon, when his lead tank exploded under a direct hit. Jim passed out, regained consciousness on an operating table under the starlit sky at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital unit, and eventually was evacuated to Japan, where he was hospitalized untiI June 1951. He did return to his battalion, received the temporary grade of first lieutenant in July 1951, and was a platoon leader in Company A and a staff officer in battalion headquarters.

At the very end of 1951, he returned to the States with a Purple Heart, a Distinguished Unit Citation, two Overseas Bars, a Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, and the National Defense, United Nations, and Korean Service Medals. In June 1952, Jim completed the Armored School Associate Company Officer Course and then completed the Engineer School Associate Company Officer Course. In June 1953, Jim was promoted to first lieutenant and, in July that same year, became eligible for duty as an instructor in the Department of Mathematics at the Point. Jim chose not to follow that lead, however, for he had set his mind to pursue a civil engineering career.

In February 1952, Jim married Norma Bratti of Bronxville, NY, and ten months later, daughter Nancy was born in New York City.

Although their union ended in divorce 14 years later, Jim never remarried and remained fully devoted to his beloved daughter for the rest of his life.

On 19 Mar 1954, Jim resigned from the Army. He started working for Strobel and Rongved, an engineering firm in New York and enrolled in a correspondence course with the University of Wisconsin, studying reinforced concrete design. Jim became a member of the American Concrete Institute in 1956 and earned a master's in structural engineering from Columbia University in 1957. He became a registered professional engineer in New York State in 1958 and, later, registered in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and DC. In 1960, he became a member of American Society of Civil Engineers. Jim designed a variety of structures during 1955‑60: the 150‑foot control tower at Newark Airport; aircraft hangars for the Navy and the Corps of Engineers; cement plants in Florida and Canada; and the capitol power plant renovation in DC. He was the project manager for the new IBM typewriters manufacturing plant that occupied a 290 acre site in Lexington, KY. The structure was described in one engineering publication as "concrete meets all challenges on complex building project."

During 1960‑66, Jim managed his own consulting engineering firm on Park Avenue in Manhattan. He designed the 13‑story Beekman Plaza and the 17‑story Polyclinic apartments in Manhattan; the garage for Kips Bay houses; and the Institute for Basic Research in Mental Retardation on Staten Island, which the Portland Cement Association described in 1966 as an "outstanding design of concrete." Jim closed the office in 1966 and started working for other consulting firms as well as taking on private contracts. Jim Hufnagel's design work was as prolific as ever until he retired in 1993.

Jim lived by himself for more than 30 years in Manhattan’s London Terrace in Chelsea, among his structural engineering and military history books, maps, and classical music. He loved Manhattan with a blind passion, always discovering the hidden poetry of that island. He loved the old trees of Central Park. He also played chess and was a member of Marshall Chess Club. In retirement, as an intellectual exercise, he studied German and was reading, in German, the Bible and Guderian's "Memories of a Soldier."

Annually since 1997, he traveled to Bavaria with his old friend Mariana von Dobeneck to the land of her late husband and his close friend, Klaus. All three were civil engineers and their personal and professional friendship lasted decades. In July 1999, Jim had a heart attack and underwent emergency surgery that offered a slim chance of survival. He fought bravely and serenely for eleven months but never returned home. Thoughts of his class came back to him in these days, and he would have loved attending the 50th Reunion. He enjoyed the get‑well wishes from his classmate John E. Wagner and, in mid‑June, received a long letter from his classmate Volney E Warner, who described the reunion. Jim was extremely happy. He looked at that letter for a very long time, with tears in his eyes, and then asked Mariana to read it again.

Jim Hufiiagel was a brilliant man of impeccable character and extreme sensitivity. He was quiet, loyal, courteous, diligent and humble, never confused the moral with the legal, and lived by the ancient codes of chivalry. He had crystal clear integrity and never inflicted pain. Jim never talked about "Duty, Honor, Country;" he just lived by it as if that were the only natural thing for him to do. He serenely carried his burden, fought all his battles by himself, and made this world a better place, just by having been here. He was a true son of West Point and he will be missed.

- Mariana von Dobeneck and Classmates