Lenox residents Robert and Mary Ann Coakley are maternal grandparents to U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Roger W. Muchnick Jr., whose funeral is Friday.
Lenox residents Robert and Mary Ann Coakley are maternal grandparents to U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Roger W. Muchnick Jr., whose funeral is Friday. (Eagle file)

LENOX -- One of the most elaborate funerals the town has ever witnessed will be held on Friday morning when a service with full military honors for U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Roger W. Muchnick Jr. takes place at St. Ann Catholic Church on Main Street.

Hundreds of mourners are expected to attend the service, which begins at 11 a.m. The service will be preceded by a visitation at St. Ann from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.

Muchnick, who grew up in Westport, Conn., was a grandson of well-known Lenox residents Robert and Mary Ann Coakley. He was among eight Marines who were killed on March 18 when a mortar shell exploded in its firing tube during a winter training exercise at Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada.

"The Coakley family is part of the fabric of this community," said state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, who will be speaking at the service as a friend of the family.

"Robert Coakley lived on the family farm on Pittsfield Road when it was a one-lane dirt highway," said Pignatelli. "Our families go back over 80 years and have been very close friends ever since."

Pignatelli said the service would be especially significant "out of respect to the Coakley family and their history in this community, and because this young man loved to come up to the Berkshires and hang out at the farm."

With the exception of funeral traffic, motor vehicles will not be allowed on Main Street between Hubbard and Housatonic streets beginning at 8 a.m. on Friday, said Lenox Police Chief Stephen O'Brien.

"If you're not planning on attending the funeral service," he said, "I suggest that you avoid the area.

"This may be an unprecedented crowd for St. Ann's. We're preparing for that."

"There will be significant traffic and parking issues in the center of town on Friday morning into the afternoon," O'Brien said. "Everybody needs to expect that, and we're hoping for everybody's cooperation so that this service can proceed without incident."

When the funeral procession leaves the church, shortly after noon, Housatonic Street will be closed to traffic from Main Street to Ore Bed Road, where the entrance to St. Ann Cemetery is located. The procession will be led by the Westport, Conn., police department. Members of Muchnick's military unit are expected to attend, along with friends from his Connecticut hometown.

The full military-honors service -- a rare event in town -- will be officiated by the Rev. Christopher J. Waitekus, pastor at St. Ann, along with Bishop Timothy McDonnell from the Diocese of Springfield, the Rev. Daniel B. Brunton, pastor Emeritus of St. Ann, and the Rev. Daniel J. Boyle, pastor of Blessed John Paul II Parish in Adams.

Muchnick will be laid to rest at St. Ann Cemetery alongside his great-uncle, Navy Lt. Cmdr. William Coakley.

William Coakley, Robert Coakley's brother, was shot down over North Vietnam in 1966. After 23 years missing in action, his remains were returned to Lenox for a service on Memorial Day 1989 with full military honors and burial at the cemetery. The stretch of routes 7 and 20 that passes the Coakley homestead was renamed the "Lieut.-Cmdr. William F. Coakley Memorial Highway."

Officials attending the funeral include U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield; state Auditor Suzanne Bump; state Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Ken Turner; and state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield.

The Lenox-based Coakley clan includes Michael and Wendy Coakley, the son and daughter-in-law of Robert Coakley and his grandsons, Sean and Kevin Coakley. Muchnick's mother is the former Catherine (Kate) Coakley, who now lives in Jupiter, Fla. Four other Coakley family members live in New York City.

The parking lot at Church on the Hill will be used to accommodate any TV satellite trucks, O'Brien said. He invited media outlets to call him for details.

The service inside St. Ann and at the cemetery will be closed to media at the request of the family, according to Ned Roche of the Roche Funeral Home, which is in charge of the arrangements.

To contact Clarence Fanto:
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