The Town of Smithtown Celebrates the Life and Legacy of James E. Dowling with a Dedication and Unveiling Ceremony at Moriches Park Little League Field
The Town of Smithtown hosted an unveiling ceremony at the newly renovated little league field located at Moriches Park, officially renaming it James E. Dowling - Smithtown - St James Facility. On Tuesday, September 27th at 11AM, the community of St James, friends and family all gathered on a perfect sunny day to celebrate the life and legacy of World War II POW, founder of the St. James Little League and former Superintendent of Highways James E. Dowling. The ceremony coincidentally took place on the anniversary of the day Jim “Red” Dowling was shot down and taken as a prisoner of war in Germany.
“Most of us who were blessed to know Jim, will tell you it would be impossible to forget him. The legacy he has left us with is one that will continue to impact our youth, our families and our community as a whole for generations to come. He will always be remembered as the greatest generation’s brave hero, the father of our local little league and the builder of roadways. Renaming and dedicating this newly restored ballpark is but one small way we can teach our youth about service, honor and duty to our neighbors, family and country.” - Supervisor Ed Wehrheim
The newly renovated ball field was completed by mid summer of this year. The Parks Department constructed a new dugout, backstop and installed new outfield fencing. The 90 foot synthetic turf infield replacement compliments the previous renovations at Moriches/Vets Memorial Park, which include the recent replacement of the turf fields at the Soccer Complex, a soft splash pad at the waterpark, state-of-the-art playgrounds, interactive playhouse, new fencing surrounding the play areas, concrete sidewalks, a LED user-friendly crosswalk, and all new landscaping. The new ball field makeover was the result of a public-private partnership with the St James/Smithtown Little League.
James E. Dowling was drafted at the age of 18 in 1942. Despite a high school knee injury, he became part of the 703rd Squadron, 445th Bomb Group in the 8th Army Air Corps as a Bombardier/Navigator, alongside the famous actor Jimmy Stewart as his Flight Leader. Two years later, at the age of 20, Dowling became an officer, earning the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. Dowling was shot down and taken as a prisoner of war on his 11th mission, during the 703rd Squadron's bombing run over Kassel, Germany. Not long after returning home from the service, Dowling married his high school sweetheart, Dorothy. He fathered eight children and continued to be a shining example of service and sacrifice for his family, friends and community. He started a peewee baseball league for children in the neighborhood which became the St. James Little League, where he served as its president for 18 years.
James E. Dowling was elected Smithtown Highway Superintendent in 1960 and served through 1998. Using his knowledge from the service, Dowling successfully created 250 miles of permanent roads, multiple infrastructure projects, and altered the way Smithtown handled snow storms/removal, which set the precedent for a system that is implemented nationwide to this day.
Dowling was featured in the Town of Smithtown Faces of War documentary series and has an entire chapter devoted to his story in Tom Brokaw’s book The Greatest Generation.
James E. Dowling passed away over Memorial Day weekend on May 26th, 2022. He is remembered as a loving father to James Dowling Jr, Douglas and Jeanne Dowling, Jeffrey and Aniela Dowling, Janet and Brett Weingarten, Jean Dowling, Elizabeth and Robert Elderkin, Gregory and Donna Dowling, William and Christine Dowling; adored grandfather to 25 grandchildren, 33 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild. Additionally, James E. Dowling is remembered by the Town of Smithtown as a hero who undoubtedly left his legacy upon the community for generations to come.