When Donald Mooney Sr. was an artillery scout picking out targets during the invasion of Okinawa in World War II, he never imagined he'd...

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When Donald Mooney Sr. was an artillery scout picking out targets during the invasion of Okinawa in World War II, he never imagined he’d be back in Japan 30 years later to open a successful business and meet a woman who would become his wife.

Mr. Mooney was founding president and CEO of Equitable Life of Japan, a subsidiary of the former Equitable Life Insurance Company. He died of complications related to Alzheimer’s disease last Thursday in his Bellevue home. He was 79.

He was underage when he went to enlist in the Army in 1944, but somehow persuaded recruiters to take him, according to his son, Donald Mooney Jr., of the Cincinnati area.

Mr. Mooney was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for action in Okinawa.

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An avid conversationalist who loved to share stories, Mr. Mooney was quiet when it came to what is generally known as one of the toughest battles in the war.

“He wouldn’t talk about his experience in Okinawa,” his son said. “He would say he was there but would never give you a blow-by-blow of what it was like.”

After the war, he worked as a military policeman in occupied Japan. He took pleasure in learning about the people and culture, but he never suspected he would be back.

Upon returning to the United States, Mr. Mooney enrolled in Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., graduated in 1950 with an economics degree and went to work for Equitable. He worked for the company for 40 years.

He was married to Marguerite Walsh in 1948. The couple had four children before they separated in 1973.

In 1985, he returned to Japan to open Equitable’s Japanese subsidiary and introduce a new product to Japan, variable life insurance. While there, he met Noriko Takahashi. The two were married in a Shinto ceremony in Japan in 1988.

He retired in 1990, and the couple moved to Bellevue in 1996. The location was ideal for visiting their families in Ohio and Japan, and for the year-round gardening possibilities, which he enjoyed.

“He loved his dahlias and gladiolas, maybe too much,” his wife said. It was an idea his son seconded.

“His one vice was too much Miracle Grow,” he said.

Mooney is also survived by another son, Thomas, and daughter Christine, both of Cincinnati; daughter Leslie, of Philadelphia; sister Kathleen Carrese, of Ballston Lake, N.Y.; and seven grandchildren.

A memorial ceremony was held at the couple’s Bellevue home Sunday. A second memorial will be held Oct. 8 in Cincinnati.

In lieu of flowers or gifts, contributions can be made to the Alzheimer’s Association of Western and Central Washington, 1271 30th Ave. N.E., Suite. 101, Seattle, WA 98125.

Matthew Ironside: 206-464-2567 or mironside@seattletimes.com