Oldest Pearl Harbor Survivor

Ray Chavez was 29 when he woke to the Japanese attacking Pearl Harbor, where he was stationed with the Navy, on December 7, 1941. He survived that attack, and today  at 105 is the oldest living survivor in the world. It’s become somewhat of a celebrated title for Chavez, and for his native city of San Diego, which has a large military presence and honored his birthday this year with a three day celebration.

Ray Chavez, 104 years-old, believed to be the oldest Pearl Harbor survivor, was the quartermaster on the USS Condor, a Navy minesweeper, on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and surrounding areas. (Howard Lipin/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)

It might sound like a lot for a 105 year old to handle, but Chavez’s motto is “survival of the fittest,” and it’s something he takes to heart. The centenarian works out twice a week with a personal trainer to stay fit, and that’s where he began his birthday on March 10th: the gym. He took that night to have cake with friends, then the next day (a Saturday), a motorcade brought Chavez and his family to the Midway, a former aircraft carrier parked in the San Diego harbor that has been converted into a museum. Presenters there gave speeches about Chavez and then had a sunset concert for the hundreds of people who gathered there. The crowd awed Chavez, and yet many more people sent him cards and well wishes.

The next day, Sunday, Chavez took the time to gather with a group he’s seen often throughout the years: the local chapter of Pearl Harbor survivors. Along with family, they gathered at  church reception hall to listen to mariachi music and have lunch and cake. Chavez loves meeting with the survivors group; it deepens the natural connection they all share. Stuart Hedley, the chapter president, agrees. “It’s very important because we’re going one by one and we want to capture as much of the enjoyment of being together as possible.” We think anyone who’s met Chavez feels the same way!