Raymond Chavez may be 104 years old, but he’s not letting that get in the way of his workout routine or the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
The centenarian, who lives in Poway, in northeast San Diego, lifts weights, does sit-ups and rides a stationary bike with the help of his personal trainer.
Chavez was serving on a minesweeper Navy ship in Pearl Harbor on that infamous day in 1941 and remembers it well.
"On December sixth it was very quiet, but on December seventh everything broke loose," he told NBC 7.
Chavez was born in San Bernardino and returned to California after leaving the Navy, but said he’s never forgotten Pearl Harbor.
“We’re going back because I feel part of it,” Chavez told NBC 7. “Right here the programs are very good, very nice, but over there I feel different, completely different. I feel like I am one with them, and they are part of me. And it just reminds me of December the seventh with all the men that were lost and the ships that were sunk. I go and say a little prayer for their souls and that makes me feel better.”
Chavez and his daughter have been to Pearl Harbor a few times in the last decade, but this year is special – It’s the 75th anniversary. They plan to attend the remembrance ceremonies and the memorial services for all the people who lost their lives in the attack.
“I did have a few friends who were lost and I never saw them again,” Chavez said. “That’s another reason I go. I like to be there with them.”
Sean Thompson has been training Chavez at Personally Fit in Poway for the last three years. He said when Chavez first started he was sedentary and weighed just 92 pounds, but after six months of coming in twice a week, he had gained 20 pounds of muscle.
Not only is Chavez the oldest living Pearl Harbor survivor, but according to Thompson, he’s also one of the fittest.
“Pretty astonishing results for someone over 100 to make 20 pounds of muscle,” Thompson said. “His body was still craving exercise…He’s definitely a hero in my eyes.”
Thompson and Personally Fit mutually decided to raise money to send Chavez and his daughter first-class to Pearl Harbor, pay for their accommodations, a luau and, if they get enough donations, pay for more survivors to make the trip.
They collaborated with the Scripps-Poway Rotary Club and put together a 501c3 to raise money.
“The three of us kind of collaborated to get it done and Personally Fit went ahead and got the tickets, so he’s going no matter how much we raise, but I’m pretty confident that we’ll be able to cover that expense and actually send some more of our vets,” Thompson said. “The more we get the more we can send.”
“I never will forget that as long as I live because people have been very, very good and very nice,” Chavez said about the people who had donated money to help him get to Pearl Harbor. “Very helpful too.”
People who want to donate to “Pearl Flight” can visit the Gofundme page.