Library named in honor of Pearl Harbor survivor

Story and photos by Brister Thomas

Navy Hale Keiki School

Michael “Mickey” Ganitch, a 98-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor, thought he was on island for a dinner in support of Navy Hale Keiki School.

But the students had a different plan in mind. They surprised him Nov. 9 by dedicating their new library in his name.

“We have been working for months to get ready for this surprise,” said Liam Boland, a fifth-grader at the school.

Pearl Harbor survivor Michael “Mickey” Ganitch participates in the new library dedication with the students of Navy Hale Keiki School.

Ganitch and his wife, Barbara, arrived on island and were shuttled to the campus of Navy Hale Keiki School for what he was told was to talk to some of the students.

As he walked onto campus, the students were gathered outside their new building and Ganitch wondered what class he would be going to if everyone was sitting in the yard.

Then he was escorted to sit in a special chair in front of the students and he quickly realized that something special was about to happen.

Mickey Ganitch unveils the new wooden dedication sign (made by students at Radford High School) with Navy Hale Keiki School fourth-grader Liam Boland.

The service began with Radford High School’s color guard and a blessing from Kahu Kona Cruz, who announced that the children named the new library for their favorite hero, the Michael M. Ganitch library, in remembrance of all who served at Pearl Harbor.

“It was quite a shock,” Ganitch said. “I was just so honored to be there.These kids mean an awful lot to me.”

“This library is a special space for children to immerse in literacy and it’s named for a uniquely special person who embodies traits that we would like to share with all children,” said Monique Raduziner, principal of Navy Hale Keiki School.

“There is a special magic when he enters the room filled with children and history comes alive each and every time,” Raduziner said about how inspiring Ganitch is when he is with the students at the school.

“We are so grateful for The Greatest Generations Foundation for making it possible for Mickey and Barbara to be here today,” Raduziner added.

Scott Williams and Dita Holifield present Ganitch with the Above and Beyond Award at the Stars and Stripes dinner for Navy Hale Keiki School.

A parent, Master Sgt. Ismael Reyna, noted the “positive connection between Mickey and the children.”

The next day Ganitch and his wife were honored at the school’s Stars and Stripes dinner.The students had a special tribute to him and all the United States military as they sang a medley of the armed forces songs to the almost 200 parents and friends of the school.

Another surprise for Ganitch came when Scott Williams, executive director of Lex Brodie’s, showed up at the dinner to announce that Ganitch was the recipient of the “Above and Beyond Award,” given to someone in uniform who has gone above and beyond. Dita Holifield, general manager of Salem Media of Hawaii, announced that the award was dedicated “to the hero that continues to inspire us all.”

Capt. Jeff Bernard, commander of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, and his wife, Anita, attended the dinner.

“His (Ganitch’s) historical tales were both enlightening and mesmerizing,” Anita said.

Ganitch was only in the Navy about a month when he was stationed on the USS Pennsylvania as a navigator when the Dec. 7, 1941 attack happened.

Ganitch talked to the parents at Navy Hale Keiki School and told them that he travels the U.S. and he loves to talk to children.

“I love this country and these kids are our future. I love them and always tell them to work hard and take responsibility for their actions,” Ganitch said.

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Category: Life & Leisure