Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Paying Respects to a Great Man in Anaheim

This message is long, but worth the read. It was an email, posted to the "Mother Colony" yahoo group, inviting the neighbors to attend the funeral of a great man. I will simply post it as written, and invite all of Anaheim to come pay their respects.

My name is Robert Nelson and I live in the 900 block of Alberta Street. Last week my father of eighty-eight years, Robert B. Nelson, passed away. For the past seven years, I cared for him while he suffered from the terrible disease of Alzheimer’s. The man who would tell his life stories to me as I grew up, needed me to tell him these same stories during these last few years. To me, my Father was a great man. He did have his faults, but the love he showed me and the virtues that he taught me over-shadowed anything that he may have lacked. My Father was a registered Democrat, but was a Republican at heart. He always believed in the “little guy.” He believed that if you want something, you need to work for it. But, if somebody else needed something, he would do whatever he could to help him out.One of the most special things about my Dad was that he was a Pearl Harbor Survivor. His job at Pearl was Radio-Man for the Commander of the Pacific Fleet, Adm. Kimmel. On December 6, 1941, he was working the night shift. He would later tell me the stories of what he saw and heard in those early hours leading up to the attack. His watch had ended around 6 a.m., and as he was heading back to the barracks for some sleep, he stopped for reveille in front of the flag. Then, just like in the movies, the Japanese began their attack. “A day that will live in infamy.” Dad never talked about the horrible tragedies that he saw that day or all during the war. He would only talk about things that seemed important to him. He served on the USS Pennsylvania, USS West Virginia, and the USS Maryland, earning medals for battles in the Asiatic-Pacific area, and the Philippine Liberation. Often, during his service, my Father would volunteer. Most of the time, it was to go ashore and care for the wounded. The Battle for Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands was an exception. The Marines were suffering heavy casualties. The call came out for volunteers to go ashore and fight with the Marines. My Dad, the true patriot that he was, raised his hand and off he went. When the battle was over, and we were victorious, he felt it was best that he go back to being a radio-man. But by then, his ship had left. It took him an entire month, hopping from ship to ship, with only the clothes on his back, to reach his duty ship. Born in Grand Forks, North Dakota, he travelled extensively in his youth, attending more than fifteen different schools. Many of them were here in Orange County. He graduated from Santa Ana Junior College, before joining the US Navy in 1940. Following the war, my Dad studied chemistry at UC Berkeley, and later worked as a chemist and researcher for a variety of companies which manufactured everything from paint to vitamins. He retired as a clerk from the Los Angeles County Courts. An ever-curious mind, he was a prolific reader and writer. He loved learning languages and studying the Bible. I don’t think I can remember a time where he wasn’t taking some kind of college course. He developed a variety of inventions to help children read, and predict earthquakes. He even ran for Congress, but lost. He was a member of the American Legion for fifteen years at Post 75 and 72, serving in leadership positions at Post 75 until his health began to fail. He was married, and is survived by his wife Alice, sons, Robert, Bentley, and Charles, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. If you would like to help me pay respects to a man who served diligently during a time of war, so that we could continue our freedom, then please join us on Friday, August 29th, at 10:00 a.m. at St. Boniface Church. Military honors will be rendered at the conclusion of the service. Tom Brokaw calls these people “The Greatest Generation.” I couldn’t agree more.Thank you,Robert Nelson

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