Rest in Peace

clayton-schenkelbergClayton Schenkelberg passed away this week. He lived in a care facility in San Diego, CA. He is survived by five of his children and more than 40 grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren. He was 103 years old – and oldest living survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor

Born Oct. 17, 1917, in Carroll, Iowa, Schenkelberg knew hardship early on. His mother died when he was 9. The stock market crashed when he was 12, triggering the Great Depression. When he was 17, his father, a livestock salesman and grain-elevator operator, was killed in an accident.

In 1937, he followed an older brother into the Navy and was sent to Pearl Harbor and into torpedo work. He experienced one of the most fateful days in modern U.S. history, the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor that shoved the United States into World War II. On the morning the Japanese planes attacked, his shift was just ending. He was looking forward to spending the day with his girlfriend. Schenkelberg volunteered to drive a train loaded with underwater missiles away from strafing Japanese airplanes. Then he ran to an armory, grabbed a rifle and started shooting back.

After the war, he stayed in the Navy for another two decades, got married and raised seven children, and eventually settled in San Diego, where he had a second career as a high school custodian. His motto through the years: One day at a time. “If you asked him about any of it, he would tell you he was just doing what needed to be done,” his son Patrick said. “He didn’t think it was anything special. He had a job to do and he did it.”

Like so many service men and women who survived that day, they picked themselves up, helped win the war and then got on with their lives in a way that led them to be dubbed the Greatest Generation.

Clayton Schenkelberg – rest in peace.

4 thoughts on “Rest in Peace

  1. With the passage of time, today’s generation sometimes forgets that there were people who gave their lives for others, to insure that our world was safe from tyranny. I am grateful for all those who came before me that were noble in their efforts. Thank you, Father George, for telling us of Mr. Schendkelberg. Jim, you words are quite lovely!

  2. This is a story that deserves a place of honor in friarmusings. One story of a decent man who lived the life he was given — one small presence in the mosaic that is God’s kingdom. We each are one small, essential piece of the whole —- our contributions are important, different than Clayton’s, but nonetheless critical that we do what God calls to do and to be.
    God bless Clayton Schendkelberg

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