Pearl Harbor survivor is honored at Utah ceremony

Story and photos by Brister Thomas

Contributing Writer

Through misty clouds across the USS Utah Memorial on Ford Island, the sun peeked out as if to welcome home a fallen hero.

During an ash-scattering ceremony held Nov. 15, Chief Petty Officer Edwin Ray Penrose, U.S. Navy retired, was laid to rest near his fellow shipmates.

Penrose’s family gathered around the historical landmark to celebrate the life of their American hero, surrounded by memories of those who went before him. Full military honors were rendered, including a rifle salute, Taps and flag-folding ceremony provided by the Navy Region Hawaii Ceremonial Guard.

Chaplain Steven Voris of Pearl Harbor Memorial Chapel offered these words of comfort, “God created life and death. Let us now praise him for the life of Edwin Penrose.”

Penrose’s son, Steve, spoke of his father’s true devotion to being a Sailor.

“He was proud to serve in the United States Navy. He never really spoke about his time in Pearl Harbor, but we knew that it had special meaning for him because this is where he wanted to scatter his ashes,” Steve said.

Edwin Ray Penrose joined the Navy in 1940 at the age of 18. At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, he was assigned to the USS Rigel, which was in the shipyard and without weapons because she was in the process of being converted from a destroyer tender to a repair ship.

“Dad told the story that when he and a buddy were returning from church, they saw the bombers heading low over the harbor and they immediately knew what was about to happen,” Steve recounted.

Penrose returned to his ship and gathered the crew to man the rescue efforts with the ships’ boats. He was in one of the boats that pulled numerous Sailors from the burning flames of the ignited oil on the water.

Jim Taylor, retired Navy Master Chief and Navy Region Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor survivor liaison, described Rigel’s involvement on Dec. 7, 1941.

“Their crew was credited for saving over 75 men that were probably blown overboard or jumped off their ship, the battleship West Virginia,” Taylor explained.

Penrose was devoted to the Navy, but his wife was chronically ill. So he reluctantly initiated a request that the Navy grant him shore duty.

“My dad loved the Navy, but my mom was sick and could not care for us. He gave up being promoted so that he could stay with the family,” his son said.

Penrose went on to serve throughout World War II, re-enlisted and remained in the Navy until he retired as a chief opticalman on July 11, 1960.

Steve and his wife, Pat, their daughter Tricia and son-in-law, Tom, and Penrose’s two-year-old great-grand-daughter, Emma, along with Penrose’s niece, Nannette, made the trip to Hawaii to experience the history their beloved Sailor cherished.

As the family members gathered, they were comforted to know that they had fulfilled Edwin’s last wishes.

“He was alert up until he went into the assisted living facility,” his daughter-in-law said.

Penrose died on April 2 in Shoreline, Wash. with his family by his side. His wife, Frances, passed away six years earlier.

“My uncle was an amazing man. He was such a caregiver,” Nannette stated.

The family shared stories about how Penrose was always the one to be there for everyone.

“He was always the first to help others,” Pat added. “He never asked for anything for himself; he just wanted to make life better for those around him. I think his experiences on Dec. 7 taught him what to value in life. He was the true example of unconditional love.”

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Category: Pearl Harbor-Hickam Highlights