World War II Vets Still Meet in Arcadia

A PBY plane landing on water. – Courtesy photo

By Galen Patterson

The vets meet on the first Wednesday of every month at Coco’s in Arcadia.

The group started three years ago, when Temple City was requesting World War II veterans for a parade.  After the parade, “we thought we should get together more often,” says Art Del Rey, one of the founding members.

Recently, the group began extending invitations to veterans of other wars. “I’m not a World War II vet, I’m a Vietnam-era guy, and for some reason they let me be a guest there,” says Jim McKellar, a former medic. The veterans from World War II distinguish themselves by wearing baseball caps with the words World War II embroidered across the front, and the major battles in which they participated on the side, so that each hat is customized to reflect the experiences of the vets.

Until recently, the group had a female member. McKellar recalls his first outing with the vets, when he met the group’s original female member, Shirley. “She was tough,” said McKellar, and fit in well with the group. “She was with us for quite a while, but we have another one,” says Del Rey, referring to the group’s new female member.

Shirley is a recent loss from the group, but her passing reflects the reality the group faces and one of the reasons their get together matters. We’ve lost a lot of our guys, we’re all in our 90’s,” says Del Rey referring to the older vets. “When I started a year and a half ago there was maybe 23 or 24 guys and one gal. Now it has dwindled down to maybe 16 or 17,” says McKellar. The oldest member of the group, according to Del Rey is 96 and makes it to all the meetings, Del Rey himself is 94.

Del Rey was part of a PBY squadron, a sort of flying boat, primarily tasked with rescuing downed crew members in the ocean and bombing. He recounts a memory of his plane rescuing a crew member from a different plane, who had been surviving, lost at sea in a raft and had no idea where the rest of his crew was. “Some of those guys didn’t know if they would ever be found,” he said.

“The guys are really nice and really friendly,” said McKellar. From time to time, the group will host guest speakers. “They have been sensational,” said McKellar. One of the guest speakers was Jimmy Doolittle’s granddaughter, the commanding officer and mastermind of the now-famous “Doolittle Raid,” in which U.S. bombers attacked the Japanese mainland for the first time.

James H. Doolittle. – Courtesy photo

The vets plan to meet once again before Veteran’s Day, in the first week of November.

October 10, 2018

About Author

Galen Patterson

2 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “World War II Vets Still Meet in Arcadia”

  1. Melanie Watson says:

    This is my grandfathers Veteran’s group.
    His name is Dale T. Perry and he was a torpedo man In the US. Navy on PT Boat #309, which we have found out is in the Pacific War Museum in Fredericksburg, TX.
    He asked his parents permission to enlist at age 15 and again T age 16. They finally agreed and signed their parental rights over to the government, when he was just 17 years old.

    He was assigned to MTB Squadron Twenty-Two and served in the Mediterranean Theater.
    He completed his 20 missions in and around both Italy and France. They were brought to New York after VE Day and reassigned to the Pacific. But the war ended prior to their departure and his last rating at discharge was TM2c (T).
    After the war, he returned to his childhood home, went back to high school and received his high school diploma.
    He married my grandmother “Chickie” on June 29, 1946 in Monterey Park, CA with 500 people in attendance!
    Shortly thereafter, they bought their first/only home in Arcadia and raised son, Bob and daughter Dee Dee, my mother.
    He retired as Postmaster long ago, go bored at home and went back to work.
    He was there long enough to retired for a second time! This time, from the Huntington Library. He still volunteers as a docent twice a month.
    He and my Grandmother were married 55 1/2 years at the time of her passing.
    He still lives in the home on Doolittle and was pleased to tell me he studied hard and passed his Driving test yesterday, it’s good now until he turns 99!
    He has a lady friend, Anne and they’ve been together almost 10 years, a Little less. And she is wonderful! They stay active and even work out at Golds Gyn 3-4 times a week!

    I wanted to share his story with you and to encourage everyone to ask you family and friends abt their time in the service, document them, record them, the preservation of what these brave men and women went through each day from enlistment date to discharge date, is so very important.
    We owe it to the future generations to share these amazing stories with them.
    To honor them and to keep their memories alive.
    Too many Veterans have already passed away, and sadly taking with them their personal experiences in various Wars and Conflicts. These men, like my Pops, are so humble.
    When after hearing a CD of him speaking at a Veterans dinner, we asked Him why he’d never told us those things before.
    His answer was quite simply, “well no one ever asked!”
    And he was right. Last week I put him in contact with the Museum where his PT boat is housed and I’m proud too say he completed his Oral History.
    He was interviewed for nearly 1 1/2 hours. I’m beaming. Just so very proud to call him my grandfather and my Pops!
    The gentleman doing the phone interview, also a veteran, said Pops was his 1071st interview! He has done it ALL on his own time and dime. Most of the men there are Volunteers.
    Amazing men and women.

    They have a very nice time, sometimes they have a speaker and can’t beat the good food and reasonable prices at Cocoa’s!
    They have opened the group up to ALL Veterans!
    So go down there this morning or next month and talk to these men and share stories with them.
    Thank You to ALL Veterans for your Service, Selflessness, Dedication and Sacrifice…
    We will NEVER forget, Some Gave All…
    We Salute You…

    Please Thank a Veteran when you see one.
    It’s the least we can do, they deserve so much more.

    • Galen Patterson says:

      Thank you for sharing this story. I agree, it’s important we preserve these stories to help the future generations understand the lives of their ancestors.

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