By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
The city observed the 76th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor during its annual Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony Dec. 7 at the William A. Soderman Memorial Flagpole on the Veterans Walk of Honor in Bradley Point Park.
Amid a chilly, late autumn breeze, Mayor Nancy R. Rossi delivered poignant remarks to the huddled crowd of veterans, residents, and city and state officials, honoring “the patriotic sons and daughters who made the ultimate sacrifice 76 years ago” on the eve of America’s entry into World War II.
“The attack at Pearl Harbor fired the spirit of America and its flame of liberty,” Rossi said. “Millions of courageous Americans responded with unwavering resolve to protect and defend our homeland. They answered our country’s call by serving on the battlefield, working in the factory, and toiling on the farm.”
“We remember Pearl Harbor by their deeds and their willingness to fight for freedom,” she continued. “And because of their extraordinary devotion to duty, the United States is stronger than ever before.”
The half-hour event also included remarks from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9422 Cmdr. Freddy Jackson and West Haven Veterans Council President Dave Ricci.
It was attended by Ben Florsheim, an aide to U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.; state Reps. Michael A. DiMassa and Dorinda Borer, D-West Haven; City Clerk Deborah Collins; and Councilman Peter V. Massaro, D-6.
John W. Lewis served as the master of ceremonies.
Representing the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, Jerry Lehr, son of the late William C. Lehr, a Pearl Harbor Navy veteran, read aloud the 17 Connecticut servicemen who died Dec. 7, 1941, at the U.S. naval base in Oahu, Hawaii, as City of West Haven Fire Department Allingtown Capt. Jason Cameron tolled the department’s chrome bell each instant a name was called.
Lehr, whose father served aboard the destroyer USS Monaghan, was accompanied by Florence Stoeber, wife of the late Jack Stoeber, a Navy vet of Pearl Harbor and Iwo Jima who was a regular at West Haven’s Pearl Harbor rites for many years.
Stoeber, whose ashes were scattered in Pearl Harbor after he died Jan. 16, 2016, at age 97, was a .50-caliber machine-gunner aboard the destroyer tender USS Whitney in the Pacific theater of World War II.
The solemn service commenced with a presentation of the colors by the West Haven Police Color Guard.
It featured opening and closing prayers by Victor M. Borras of Gateway Christian Fellowship and a rendition of the national anthem by Grace Kelly Nowak, as well as a wreath-laying by Rossi and Ricci and taps played by former West Shore Fire Department Lt. Kevin McKeon.