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Former Morris Freeholder, Decorated Marine Dies at 81

Col. Peter O'Hagan spent most of his life serving in the public sector, served on active duty in two wars.

Colonel Peter O’Hagan served most of his life in the public arena, from military positions to local government, always keeping his home state of New Jersey safe.

The decorated Marine who served on active duty in two wars died Saturday at the age of 81,according to his obituary.

O’Hagan was born and raised in Harding Township and had lived in Morris Township since 1958. He was a member of the first graduating class of Bayley Ellard High School in Madison in 1950.

When he graduated Mt. St. Mary’s College in 1954, O’Hagan was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in the United States Marine Corps. He served on active duty through 1956, and stayed in the reserves upon his release. O’Hagan served as Deputy Provost Marshall at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina from 1955 to 1956 and was a special agent for the Central Intelligence Agency from 1956 to 1958.

As a Major in 1969, O’Hagan served in Vietnam for a year as the G2 Advisor to Vietnamese Marines. He was also a security officer at the American Embassy in Saigon, Vietnam before being promoted to Lt. Colonel in 1971, serving as Commanding Officer, 6th Motor Transport Battalion from 1974 to 1976.

O’Hagan then served as Commanding Officer, Mobilization Training Unit-1 at Picatinny Aresenal in Dover after being promoted to Colonel in 1976. He worked there until his retirement in 1984.

For three years after his retirement he served as Marine Corps Liaison Officer to the New Jersey National Guard. In addition, he served as a Special Agent to the United States Department of Defense, Security Services Division, for nearly 20 years and conducted classified investigations on matters vital to national security. 

O’Hagan also served as special assistant to the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Commissioner and Chairman of the New Jersey Lottery Commission.

The Colonel headed back to active duty for Operation Desert Storm in 1991 as the Casualty Assistance Officer for the Marines and for the State of New Jersey. But the highlight of his career, according to the obituary, was leading 2,500 Marines in the victory parade up Broadway in New York City at the end of that war.

O’Hagan also served locally as Morris Township mayor and committeeman for 13 years. He also was a Morris County Freeholder and in his second term in 1994 was appointed by Governor Christine Todd Whitman as Director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety. He worked in that capacity until 2002.

In November 2013, the Morris County Freeholders honored O'Hagan by declaring Nov. 8 "Colonel Peter O'Hagan Day" in Morris County.

O’Hagan is survived by his wife, Barbara, six children, and 10 grandchildren. A liturgy of Christian Burial will be held at the Church of the Assumption in Morristown on Thursday at 10 a.m. Visitation will be held at the Doyle Funeral Home on Wednesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m.

Memorial donations can be made to the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, P.O. Box 37, Mountain Lakes, NJ 07046 or to the Morris Minute Men, P.O. Box 192, Morris Plains, NJ 07950.

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