Marine Corps vet, 92, checks kayaking off her bucket list

Julia LeDoux
September 09, 2020 - 1:04 pm
Kayak

Department of Veterans Affairs

On a beautiful day last month, Marine Corps veteran Pauline “Polly” Moriglioni sat in the cockpit of her tandem kayak, ready to launch out into Lake Mascoma, New Hampshire.

Moriglioni, who will turn 93 in November, had always been active and loved the outdoors, according to a VA blog post.

“One time, I went outside to reprimand one of the great grandchildren about the ball hitting the house,” explained Dee, Moriglioni’s daughter, “and it was ‘gram’ who turned out to be the culprit."

When she began to tire more easily and feel unwell, she saw her doctor, which led to a diagnosis of congestive heart failure in June. Already a patient of the Home-Based Primary Care Program (HBPC) at White River Junction VA Medical Center, Moriglioni entered hospice care.

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During a home visit with her care provider Deborah Bristol, Moriglioni began to reminisce about how active she had been in her earlier years. Bristol recommended she try kayaking. That’s just what she did.

Working with Recreation Therapy, Moriglioni kayaked for the first time at age 91. As a result, she discovered a new activity she thoroughly enjoyed.

“There’s always something to do,” she said in the blog post.

The HBPC program at White River Junction often works with Recreation Therapy to offer activities for patients who may otherwise be housebound.

“We really try to find what motivates our patients and what can offer them some independence and enjoyment,” explained Allison “Allie” Thurston, occupational therapist on the HBPC team.

A year after first kayaking, Moriglioni was speaking to a member of her care team and the idea of a bucket list came up. She shared two things on her bucket list that instantly came to mind: skydiving and going out on the kayak again.

The kayaking trip was soon planned.

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Moriglioni joined the Marine Corps in 1948 at the age of 21 to honor her brother Stanley and two other brothers, all of whom served in World War II. According to the blog post, Stanley, also a Marine, was on a plane that was shot down near New Guinea. Stanley was classified as missing in action after search teams located the wreckage but not all crew members. His body was eventually recovered.

Kayak
Department of Veterans Affairs

After completing her basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina, she was stationed in Washington, D.C. Her service continued during the Korean War.

 “One of my favorite memories was from my time in Washington. I got to march in a parade after Eisenhower was elected,” said Moriglioni. “That was fun.”

Today, Polly lives with Dee, who faces some health issues of her own. 

“We prop each other up and keep each other company,” said Dee. 

Moriglioni regularly works on jigsaw puzzles and word searches. She also watches her fair share of NCIS and murder mysteries. Her son Walt and his wife, Kathy, live next door.

As the kayak trip ended, she cruised to shore with a big smile and bright blue eyes twinkling even brighter than Lake Mascoma.

“That was fabulous,” said Moriglioni, who was holding up her paddles victoriously. “I would have liked more waves, but it was beautiful. I love getting out on the open water and feeling the wind on my face. It makes me feel free.”

What’s next for the Marine Corps vet? 

“Jumping out of an airplane,” she said.

Reach Julia LeDoux at Julia@connectingvets.com

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