By DOUG CURLEE | La Mesa Courier
They survived the massive Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
More than 2,400 of their fellow sailors, soldiers and Marines didn’t.
They recovered, fought in the Pacific and Europe, won WWII, and became known as the Greatest Generation.
But they finally met the enemy no one can defeat — time.
Sept. 21 brought about the end of the road for Carnation Chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, 56 years after its founding, at the final meeting held at the Latter Day Saints church in La Mesa. Chapter President Stu Hedley had to drop the final gavel at the anniversary luncheon with three words.
“We are done.”
The chapter will still exist for the friends and family members of the chapter, and they will try to continue in an informal way, making sure this generation doesn’t forget the past.
Almost everyone at the luncheon is an honorary member. They are family and friends of the survivors — wives, sons and daughters, grandchildren, and just supporters.
But the Carnation Chapter, once the largest of several chapters nationwide, can no longer officially exist.
“The rules say that the president and the vice president of the group must be actual survivors,” said 98-year-old Hedley. “There is just no one who can fill the second chair, so we have to shut it down. We are really a dying organization, aren’t we?”
There is no arguing that.
There are seven actual survivors left in the group, but only one of them was able to make it to the luncheon — Clayton Schenkelberg, who will turn 102 next month.
Hedley is the only one still able to walk and communicate well.
So well, in fact, that he’s booked for several appearances at schools and civic events over the next few months, despite the fact that he’s fighting some serious physical challenges himself.
“The Lord willing, of course,” said the deeply religious Hedley.
The Carnation Chapter people plan to continue to meet as a social group in the future, as much as they can.
But they won’t be collecting dues and sending them to the national Survivors Association — there is really no national association anymore.
Everyone knew this day was coming — which doesn’t make it any easier.
It never does.
— Doug Curlee is a longtime San Diego reporter in both print and television. Reach him at email@example.com.