Ed Hagerty was 19 when his World War II ship sank off the Philippine Islands in the Battle of Samar. For two days he could only swim and pray, with no food or fresh water, as sharks were eating sailors in the water around him.
On the second night, searchers plucked Hagerty and others from the dark sea, ending an ordeal that became a “defining moment,” in a life anchored by faith and patriotism.
Aided by Margaret, his wife of 54 years, Hagerty advocated for veterans until his death on May 22 at age 88.
The couple also raised six children and worked together to raise money for veterans’ memorials.
“He would always want to honor anyone who served our country; he was such a patriot,” said his daughter Bridget Hagerty.
His family said one of Hagerty’s most glorious moments was in San Diego a few years ago with the unveiling of the “National Salute to Bob Hope and the Military.” Five life-size bronze statues of Hope stand on points of a granite five-star platform. They are surrounded by 15 statues of soldiers and sailors, representing the millions in the military who enjoyed Hope’s morale-boosting entertainment.
Years, before, Hagerty and two other vets founded the Taffy III Association after their Naval designation. They first helped create the monument for the Battle of Leyte Gulf, honoring sunken ships and lost lives, and the Hagertys worked for 28 years to raise money for a number of other memorials.
“All these guys did it because they were such patriots, and they spent 48 hours in the water with sharks eating the guys next to them,” said Bridget Hagerty.“Their patriotism brought them to the Bob Hope thing. It was a tribute to what Bob Hope did for all the troops.”
Born in Mankato in 1925, Hagerty grew up in Red Wing and studied for priesthood at Nazareth Hall preparatory school in St. Paul. But after graduating in 1943, he joined the Navy and headed to Saipan and the Philippines.
In the huge Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944, the U.S.S. Gambier was ambushed by Japan’s fleet of battleships and cruisers. Hit by shellfire, the carrier burned and sank, spewing 1,100 men into the water for 60 miles in Leyte Gulf, an ordeal that son John Hagerty said his father didn’t talk about.
Hagerty earned his law degree from Notre Dame and was a founding partner in Hagerty & Candell law firm, practicing for 49 years. He was a national speaker for the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and belonged to other groups. He also belonged to Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Edina for 47 years.
He was happiest, however, driving down the road before the sun rose, his family of eight inside his brown-and-tan station wagon, on their way to California, Annapolis or some other destination. Sometimes they would rise at 2:30 a.m. to head to the South Dakota border for duck hunting or north to Lutsen or Spirit Mountain, even when the thermometer showed 20 degrees below.
“Daylight in the swamps!” he would yell, Bridget Hagerty recalled. “That means you get your ass out of bed right this second and you get in the car with your ski boots on.”
“We were a unit,” she said. “And my siblings are still my best friends.”
Hagerty is survived by his wife, Margaret; children Bridget Hagerty of Rhinelander, Wis.; John Hagerty of Richmond, Va.; Ann Hagerty Hicks of Eden Prairie; Catherine Kirchner of Edina; Nora Hagerty of Park City, Utah; Michael Hagerty of Plymouth, and 11 grandchildren.
Services have been held.