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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Diver was Army officer from Minnesota

Advertiser Staff

During his year in Iraq, Lt. Col. John Hennessey was photographed at Al Faw Palace in Baghdad, a former Saddam Hussein mansion.

Hennessey family photo

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A man who died Sunday morning while scuba diving off Portlock was identified yesterday as John Hennessey of St. Paul, Minn.

Hennessey, 46, was an Army lieutenant colonel who returned from Iraq last week. He had deployed last June with the 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, an Army Reserve unit based at Fort Shafter. Hennessey served with a multinational unit at Camp Victory in Baghdad.

A fellow diver found Hennessey's body about 9 a.m. Sunday near the Spitting Caves area. Dive-tour employees brought Hennessey ashore, where emergency workers were unable to revive him, officials said.

Hennessey had planned to return home to his wife and family in St. Paul next week. Instead, on Thursday, his wife will fly to Honolulu to retrieve his body and attend a memorial service with his military comrades.

"We're having a pretty rough time," Hennessey's wife, Dr. Barbara LeTourneau of St. Paul told the Minneapolis Star Tribune yesterday.

LeTourneau spoke to her husband about once or twice a week on the phone, and every day via e-mail, while he was in Iraq.

"It was a very hard year," she said. "Not as hard as it's going to be."

Hennessey also had served in Bosnia, South Korea, Peru and Guatemala. He spoke fluent Spanish.

LeTourneau said her husband enjoyed helping countries recover from war.

"He was extremely proud to be in the military," she said.

Hennessey grew up in Danbury, Conn., and studied at the U.S. Military Academy. After 11 years of active duty, he moved to Minnesota, where his first wife lived.

Hennessey and LeTourneau, an emergency-room physician at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, have been married for six years.

She said Hennessey's love for scuba diving started in Costa Rica, where they own a home. Hennessey was always active, often continuing to play sports he loved as a youngster while he was a soldier.

He played hockey in high school and joined a men's adult league while serving in South Korea.

He also competed in the Marine Corps and Twin Cities marathons after taking on competitive running because LeTourneau was a runner.

"John was an easygoing, optimistic guy," she said. "He was unassuming. He took things as they came."

Hennessey had two children: Aidan, 15, and Patrick, 10, from his first marriage; and two stepchildren, Andrew, 20, and Beth, 18.

He also is survived by his mother, Mary Burke of Massachusetts, and father, Edward of Connecticut, six sisters and two brothers.

His funeral will be in St. Paul on June 1.