It is not easy to forget the late Ray Chavez, the oldest veteran survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor whose zest for life well into his hundreds captured the hearts of San Diegans.
But a bill introduced by Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52) Wednesday, and backed with bipartisan support in the California House of Representatives, could imprint his legacy permanently on East County.
Peters stood outside the Poway Post Office on 13308 Midland Rd. and urged his fellow representatives to pass H.R. 3005, a bill to rename the post office as the "Ray Chavez Post Office Building" in honor of the American hero who died last year at age 106.
"When I found out he was the oldest [Pearl Harbor] survivor in the country, and passed away in November, I thought, what a fine tribute this would be not just to him and his family and his community, but to all the veterans who served," Peters said.
Peters already has the support of the full California House delegation, 53 republicans and democrats, and anticipates the bill should move quickly through the approval process.
Chavez' daughter, U.S. Navy veteran Kathleen Chavez, said her father would have been humbled by the honor, just as he was in life when he received attention for his service.
"He’s probably looking down from heaven right now thinking, 'Gosh, I don’t know why they’re making such a big deal. I was just doing my job,'" she said with a laugh.
Chavez served missions on a minesweeper and attack transport ship and responded to Pearl Harbor on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.
Pearl Harbor Veteran Ray Chavez Mourned in San Diego
Chavez did not often share stories about the attack on Pearl Harbor but, on one occasion, the sailor recalled being called to active duty as one of the most important memories of his life.
"War. Being in right in the middle of it," Chavez said. "It was quite a surprise. I saw everything. Smoke and fire."
Kathleen Chavez said he had not wanted to reflect on his WWII experience until recently because, really, he was a bit shy. Kathleen is grateful, however, that Chavez was able to share his story in recent years.
A day of tributes were held for Chavez weeks after he died peacefully in his sleep on Nov. 21, beginning with a funeral procession that carried Chavez' casket to his funeral service at St. Michael's Catholic Church.
Upon arrival, the admiring public stood on the sidelines, at attention, as a military honor guard carried the flag-draped casket into the church, where a private ceremony was held for loved ones.
Stu Hedley, president of the local chapter of Pearl Harbor survivors, said with Chavez’ passing, there are only 10 Pearl Harbor survivors remaining.