When his kids were young, Ernest Robert Mitchell used to fly the whole family down to Disneyland in his plane for family vacations.

"Ernie," as he was known, loved to fly, said his daughter, Bonnie Warren of Petaluma.

"He would fly us all around, to Napa and the Nut Tree when it was still there," she said. "It was pretty fun. Not many dads had an airplane."

Mitchell died Jan. 21 at Petaluma Valley Hospital after suffering a stroke. He was 88.

Born and raised in Berkeley, Mitchell joined the Navy when he was 17.

He was a gunner on the USS Taylor, the first Navy ship to anchor in peace in Japanese coastal waters at the end of World War II. In August 1945, the Taylor helped escort Admiral William F. Halsey on the USS Missouri into Tokyo Bay for the Japanese surrender.

After leaving the service, Mitchell returned to the Bay Area and worked as a foreman at the Chevron refinery in Richmond for almost 40 years, Warren said.

He served as a volunteer firefighter for the city of El Cerrito while living there.

In the late 1960s, Mitchell moved the family to Sonoma County after visiting a friend.

"He said, 'It's pretty nice up there, we're moving,'" Warren said.

He retired in the late 1980s, but kept busy traveling, flying and walking every day.

With a smile and an easy going personality, he made friends easily, Warren said.

He was a past grand master of the Free Masons and was a member of SIR, Sons in Retirement, where he enjoyed activities with other retirees.

Mitchell was also a past member of PAPA, the Petaluma Area Pilots Association, and was a volunteer for Sacks Thrift Avenue, a hospice thrift store in Petaluma.

He enjoyed traveling and did so with his late wife, Emily, to whom he was married for 51 years, and later with his friend, Shirley Selberg.

In addition to Warren, Mitchell is survived his son, Steve Mitchell of Santa Rosa, sister Blanche Huebner of Lancaster, brothers Lewis Mitchell of El Cerrito and David Mitchell of Redding, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

A celebration of his life will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Petaluma Estates clubhouse, 901 N. McDowell Blvd.