Pearl Harbor vets, now so few, return to scene of attack

Any more, it's a good turnout when six local survivors of Imperial Japan's Dec. 7, 1941, attack on U.S. forces on Oahu, one of the most momentous events in American history, make it to a monthly meeting in Santa Rosa.

There was a time not many years ago that dozens showed up. But 69 years after the lopsided first U.S. battle of World War II, most Pearl Harbor veterans have died or they're not up to getting to meetings.

Today, half of the six stalwarts of the regional chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, all aged about 90, are in Hawaii for what likely will be their last collective hurrah. And I'm with them.

On Tuesday, the 7th, Jesse Love, Herb Louden, Walt Urmann, myself and a small platoon of Sonoma and Lake County friends, relatives and widows of Pearl Harbor survivors will be in the harbor to commemorate the 69th anniversary and tour the new, $56 million visitor center near the sunken remains of the battleship Arizona.

The local chapter's other still-active members — Bill May, Don Blair and Frank Sennello — are staying home and on Tuesday morning will gather to commemorate Dec. 7 and salute their lost comrades at a memorial breakfast and ceremony.

It will start at 8 a.m. with an $8 buffet at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building. There's no charge if you'd rather come at 9 a.m. for the ceremony that includes the tolling of a bell for all the local vets who survived the attack on Oahu and have since passed away.

If you'd like to honor the remaining survivors of Pearl Harbor, Tuesday would be a good time.

HER HEART STOPPED when longtime Santa Rosa resident Marie Hunter read days ago that a pest exterminator had found in an attic the World War II photo album of an Army Air Corps aircraft mechanic named Charles C. Stricklin.

"He was my brother. He's been gone 51 years," said Marie, who's 80 and retired from a business career that included working for years for the late Hugh Codding.

She said Charles, her only sibling, was born in Alberta, Canada, grew up in San Francisco and after the war settled in Richmond and went to work as a building engineer for Sears, Roebuck & Co.

Marie said heart disease took Charles when he was young, just 37. She's mystified that his 1943 picture album wound up in an attic of a home on Brand Road, near Oakmont. She said no one in her family ever lived there and Charles was in Santa Rosa only on infrequent visits.

Marie can't wait to get together with Santa Rosa pest-controller Steve Gustafson, who will give her the like-new album.

Oh, about Stricklin's sweetheart, Nadean, who appears in many shots. Sad news there. She didn't feel for Charles the way he felt for her, and they never married.

"I don't think his life turned out the way he wanted it to," his sister said.

A THANK-YOU CARD came to Windsor firefighters from a young girl and her folks, grateful for the time a crew spent pursuing the guinea pig that got loose in the family car on the way home from the pet store.

The family told the firefighters, who nearly had to take the car apart to get at the dashing, hiding furball, that gave it the same name the firefighters used as they tried and tried to catch it: "Come on, you little ... rascal!"