“Pearl Harbor Bill” kept the memory alive

SEASIDE — Bill Thomas, who survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, spent much of his life making sure no one would forget the ones who died.

Thomas brought World War II history alive for new generations by sharing his experience and he led the way on a Pearl Harbor plaque on the First Avenue Bridge in Seaside that was dedicated in 2000.

On Saturday, friends and veterans will remember Thomas — who died at 95 in December — at Seaside’s American Legion Post 99.

“Bill personified the proud patriotic soldier who was equally proud of his service and always wanted to keep the memory of the men and women who lost their lives in Pearl Harbor,” Russ Vandenberg, general manager of the Seaside Civic and Convention Center, said Tuesday.

“Bill was clearly part of the greatest generation,” state Sen. Betsy Johnson said. “He was a great American, a terrific guy and part of my parents’ generation that made the world safe for democracy.”

“Everyone knew ‘Pearl Harbor Bill,’” his friend Eric Beal, an American Legion committee chairman and owner of North Coast Leather, said. “He would walk all over town. I was just one of the many places he’d stop by. I knew him for years. Every day he would come in and say ‘hello’ for 10 or 15 minutes, then he’d go on to the next guy.”

Thomas, a Seaside High School graduate, joined the military at 17.

The attack that killed almost 2,400 people and launched the U.S. into war took place

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