Military Honors Given to a Pearl Harbor Survivor
- Published Date
Standing on a green hill side overlooking the cityscape at the Rose Hills Memorial Park, the air so clear you can see the tall skyscrapers in the downtown area of Los Angeles. The weather was perfect after a couple days of rain. Several men in white Navy uniforms stand in a firm formal salute as the flag draped casket passes by them. You can hear the commands shouted to the seven sailors from the United States Navy rifle party as they prepare for the traditional three volley salute. The casket is placed in position. The three volley salute honors those who have served in the military. The seven sailors raise the rifles into the sky and fire three shots! The bugler sounds Taps and the eyes in the crowd begin to well up and tears start to flow.
The honor guard stands next to the casket and in a ceremonial manner, takes the flag and meticulously folds it twelve times. The folded flag was then carried and presented to the widow with the words “On behalf of the President of the United States, I present you this flag”.
My memories of John (Pete) Norman Peterson of La Verne begin to flood my thoughts. Although I wasn’t born then, I flash back to December 7, 1941 when the U.S. was attacked at Pearl Harbor and the calamity and trauma that John must have experienced as he responded to the surprise attract upon our Nation.
After his Military Honors, John received a Masonic Service since he was an active member of the Cornerstone Masonic Lodge No. 659 for several years.
Born October 29, 1921, in Marshalltown, Iowa, John Norman Peterson passed away September 27, 2011 at Hillcrest Retirement Community in La Verne on the month of his 90th birthday. As a youngster, John’s family moved to Eagle Rock, California in 1927. After graduation from high school, he enlisted in the Navy and served a six-year tour during World War II as a Machinist Mate Firsts Class aboard the USS Dobbin in the South Pacific; and was present during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. John was discharged in 1946 and went to work for Southern California Edison Company, retiring in 1979 as a foreman after 33 years.
John married Margaret Ringwald on April 19th, 1947. They raised their family in Whittier, CA. John was fiercely patriotic and joined the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, Chapter 9, in Ontario, CA. He attended several Pearl Harbor reunions and spoke to groups about his experience. He developed his love for tools and making things work while in the Navy. As a result, it was only natural for him to join the “Western Antique Power Association” (WAPA) where he maintained a large collection of restored antique engines and enjoyed displaying them at county fairs and other events. Being a skilled mechanic and craftsman, he was fond of saying “I can fix anything but a broken heart.” John also enjoyed the outdoors and served as a scout master for the Boy Scouts of America and on several occasions led small groups from his church on weeklong hikes on mountain trails.
He is survived by his wife Margaret Peterson of 64 years; daughters Mary Clarke and husband Rick of Mullan, Idaho, and Gayle Birbeck and husband Steve of Mountain Center, CA; and three grand children and five great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, sister Dolores Cundiff, brother George, and son Paul.
There were about 60,000 military personnel in and around Pearl Harbor in December 1941; however, about 2,400 were lost during the attack. According to Mal Middlesworth of CA and Past President of the National Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, nearly 70 years later it’s estimated that there are less than 2,400 survivors left. The National Pearl Harbor Survivors Association will close December, 2011 mainly due to the lack of qualified people to serve on the board. Most of the members have passed away. Those remaining are in their nineties and have health problems that prohibit them from attending meetings and conducting the everyday functions of a nonprofit organization.