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Loved ones remember last USS Arizona survivor of Pearl Harbor attack

Loved ones remember last USS Arizona survivor of Pearl Harbor attack
Posted at 4:45 PM, Apr 03, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-03 20:45:54-04

GRASS VALLEY, Calif. (KGTV) - Loved ones are remembering the life of the last survivor of the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“We’re thankful he went peacefully in his sleep,” said Jim Conter.

Surrounded by family, Lou Conter passed away Monday at his home in Grass Valley, CA, at the age of 102.

“… He wasn't just my hero, but he was an American hero,” said Jim Conter, Conter’s son.

Conter's navy career began in 1939, with two months of boot camp in San Diego. He entered with years of experience hunting as a kid.

“The instructor pulled him aside and said, 'You start teaching teach these other kids how to shoot,’ because he was shooting so well,'” said Jim.

Almost a year after boot camp, Conter was aboard the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor. After the bombs fell, he helped rescue the injured.

“Guy running out of the fire, it was pretty bad … knock them unconscious if you have to because if they jump over the side, they will burn to death in the fire, so we laid 15 or 16 of them on the deck there,” said Conter in a 2018 interview with the American Veterans Center.

"At the time he may have had emotions, but he never showed it while he was talking about it. He said, ‘Jim, we just had a job and we did it. We did what we were trained to do,’” said Jim.

Conter went onto flight school, flying 200 combat missions during the war and dozens more during the Korean War, and later teaching survival training for pilots. He survived two shootdowns during WWII.

Jim says after decades of not talking much about Pearl Harbor, his father started opening up after the 50th anniversary of the attack.

Jim says his dad talked at schools and attended memorial services at Pearl Harbor.

“Even on his envelopes, he writes ‘Remember Pearl Harbor’ under his name. He wanted to make sure everybody remembered Pearl Harbor—and not to forget it—so it wouldn’t happen again,” said Jim.

This past December, Conter was unable to make it to Pearl Harbor, but his great nephew, Marine Capt. Daniel Hower, wearing Conter’s pilot wings, gave the keynote speech.

“I'm proud to represent him, so that his legacy can to continue to live on,” said Hower on that day.

Funeral services are not yet set, but loved ones say Conter will be buried with full military honors, next to his late wife, at a cemetery in Grass Valley.