The dramatic death of Joshua James occurred on March 19, 1902. Two days earlier all but one the Monomoy Point Life-Saving Station crew perished in a rescue attempt. Drowned by the panicked victims of a ship wreak they were attempting to save. The tragedy affected Joshua deeply and convinced him of the need for even more rigid training of his own crew. At seven o'clock the morning of March 19, with a northeast gale blowing. James called his crew for a drill and to test a new self-bailing, self-righting surfboat. For more than an hour the 75-year-old man maneuvered the boat through the boisterous sea. He was pleased with the performance of the boat and the crew. Upon grounding the boat he sprang onto the wet sand, glanced at the sea and stated, "The tide is ebbing" and then fell dead on the beach from a heart attack.
Joshua was buried with a lifeboat for a coffin. A second lifeboat made of flowers was placed on his grave. His tombstone bears the Massachusetts Humane Society seal and the inscription "Greater love hath no man than this — that a man lay down his life for his friends." The superintendent of the U.S. Life-Saving Service, Sumner Increase Kimball, said of him:
|“||Here and there may be found men in all walks of life who neither wonder or care how much or how little the world thinks of them. They pursue life's pathway, doing their appointed tasks without ostentation, loving their work for the work's sake, content to live and do in the present rather than look for the uncertain rewards of the future. To them notoriety, distinction, or even fame, acts neither as a spur nor a check to endeavor, yet they are really among the foremost of those who do the world's work. Joshua James was one of these.||”|
Despite his frugal habits Joshua James was practically destitute at the time of his death leaving his invalid wife and children with insufficient support.A grateful public did not forget Joshua James' lifelong efforts, and $3,733 was raised and given to Mrs. Louisa James.
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