(Update: Adding video, comments from Higgins, granddaughter, Bend Senior High student; KTVZ.COM Poll)
'I just represent all those that couldn't be here.'
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – As the years pass, not every school gathering on December 7th, National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, can have a real-life survivor of the Japanese attack on hand as a very special, honored guest. But Bend Senior High School did on Thursday: 102-year-old Bend resident Dick Higgins, and they made the most of it.
Students, staff and fellow veterans celebrated Higgins and all who lost their lives, as well as all veterans who served their country.
Bend City Councilor Anthony Broadman read the city’s proclamation of “Dick Higgins Day,” and the Mountain View Cadet Corps also was on hand, to help honor those lost during the attack.
A bell was rung as the names were read of 33 Bend High graduates who died during World War II, as well as six alumni who are MIAs – missing in action. Many students personally thanked Higgins for his service and asked to take their pictures with him.
“I never expected something like this,” Higgins told NewsChannel 21. “I’m very honored to be here. I just represent all those that couldn’t be here.”
Higgins now lives with the family of granddaughter Angela Norton, who said, “I am just super-grateful and honored that they would want to respect him in such a way, and do this ceremony.”
It wasn’t just another assembly for the students, either.
“It’s an absolute honor being here today,” junior Carlie Shields said. “Mr. Higgins was an absolute delight to have. It’s pretty incredible, being able to celebrate him.”
After the unanimous council vote on the proclamation Wednesday night, they and others at City Hall stood and applauded Higgins, believed to be Bend’s only living Pearl Harbor survivor.
The passage of time takes its toll on those who can remember first-hand the momentous day in American history. But the family connections live on, and that’s why Councilor Barb Campbell was the one who introduced and read the proclamation that reminded all of how Higgins came to be at Pearl Harbor that morning, and now lives with his granddaughter Angela Norton’s family in Bend.
Campbell’s grandfather was in the Navy and stationed at Pearl Harbor when the attack happened. Her grandmother was seven months pregnant with Barb’s father.
"December 7th is the day when I reflect on all of the military personnel who are stationed in paradise one day and on the front lines the next," Campbell said. "I think about their families, and my granny caring for a newborn under blackout until they shipped them and the other families back to the mainland."
“Such remarkable twists of fate brought me to the place where I have the honor of recognizing one of the last Pearl Harbor survivors here in my community,” she added. “Their service, sacrifices and experiences really are unique in the history of our country.”
Along with Norton and other family members on hand Wednesday evening was, of course, Bend Heroes Foundation Chairman and indefatigable veteran activist Dick Tobiason.
He noted there are fewer than 75 living Pearl Harbor survivors left in our country, including Marvin Emmarson from Sisters. Tobiason says only three of the 25 World War II survivors he took on an Honor Flight to the nation’s capital are still among us.
The city proclamation and the president’s was to be read again at the Bend Heroes Memorial Thursday morning, and about 45 flags were installed at the Bend Heroes Memorial in Brooks Park and Veterans Memorial Bridge on Newport Avenue. All have flown over our nation’s Capitol.