ELMA — Pearl Harbor survivor Lauren Bruner, an Elma High School graduate and native to McCleary, will return home for Veterans Day celebrations in Elma.
Bruner, 92, now lives in California and is one of only 11 still alive who were on board the USS Arizona during the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Bruner will be a featured speaker for the youth at Elma Elementary School, slated for 8:30 a.m., on Friday, Nov. 8. Later that day, at 1 p.m., Bruner will be a speaker at Elma High School, where he graduated from in 1938.
Bruner is expected to join Elma native Delma (Olsen) Wood for the assembly. Back in their high school days, Bruner and Wood were the “yell king and yell queen,” said Elma VFW President Bill Wickwire, who is helping to organize the events. He points out that Wood was also a nurse during World War II.
During the annual Veterans Day parade on Nov. 11, Bruner will be a co-grand marshal along with Wood and Ruth (Livingston) Rumph, a 1939 Elma High School graduate, who went on to become a nurse serving at Pearl Harbor, although not during the bombing, Wickwire notes.
“It’s amazing that all three of these fine veterans knew each other in high school and we’re able to honor them all together,” Wickwire said. “We honor men all the time, but I think it’s just as important to single these ladies out because the men were obligated to serve and the women went because they wanted to be there. …
“When you look at it from that perspective, what they did was really courageous. I want people to know they stepped up and served. People need to know there were people like that out there. I think people have forgotten there are people like that and they need to not be forgotten. They need to be remembered and honored.”
Wickwire is hosting a fundraiser on Nov. 10 to help cover some of the costs of Bruner’s travel. Bruner will be part of a meet and greet and spaghetti dinner, slated for 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 10 at Bethany Baptist Church, 1059 Monte-Elma Road, Elma. Cost is a $7 suggested donation. Reservations aren’t required, but Wickwire requests those who wish to attend to call (360) 482-4425 so organizers have a better idea of how much food to prepare.
The L. Bruner Benefit Fund has also been set up at Timberland Bank, where anyone can go to a branch and donate funds to the account.
Bruner is participating in a documentary about the last hours of the USS Arizona, and Wickwire had a chance to travel to Hawaii and meet him in person. Wickwire notes his uncle Bill Mann was a friend of Bruner’s and served on the Arizona and was one of the 1,177 who died on the ship.
“Lauren is like the uncle I never knew I had,” Wickwire said. “He was a door into the past that I never got. I want him to see how this community has grown and I want him to see the respect and love of the community. I want him to feel that and above all I want the community to know what these people who went to war provided for this community. We wouldn’t have our freedoms if these people hadn’t stepped up. If they hadn’t gone and done what they did. We could have been a communist nation, but these people stepped up to fight for that freedom and they need to be remembered and respected. We need to keep telling their stories because we need to stop repeating history. Let us remember these guys, pay the respects and the dues that they paid for us.”