As Pearl Harbor Day was commemorated Monday, I couldn’t help but think of Richard Foltynewicz. After all, this was the 68th anniversary of when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, but it was the first one without Richard.

Foltynewicz, who died in April, played an instrumental role in getting that infamous date commemorated so future generations would never forget it. So I was pleased to learn that Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2470 held a small ceremony Monday to honor him, along with the many soldiers who died in the Dec. 7, 1941, attack.

It is ironic he had to work so hard to get Dec. 7 marked as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Consider how quickly Sept. 11 became a national day of remembrance after the terrorist attacks of 2001. It doesn’t seem right that someone as young as me can clearly remember when Pearl Harbor Day finally became an official commemorative day.

Who knew, 15 years ago, that when I heard President Clinton designated the national holiday, I would someday be working in the hometown of the man primarily responsible for getting Pearl Harbor Day that recognition?

While I didn’t start covering the La Salle County Board until after Foltynewicz was no longer a member, I did get to interview him on several occasions, including once for a sidebar to an interview with a Streator resident who survived the Pearl Harbor attack. “Folty,” as I referred to him in my notes, was always a pleasure to talk with, and he always joked that we were kindred spirits because of our long last names.

As for the Pearl Harbor survivor from Streator – Hoby VanDeventer, now 89 and still kicking – he gave me one of the most memorable interviews of my career. He recalled the day of the Pearl Harbor attack in vivid detail and openly shared his memories of it with me. I still feel honored to have spent that afternoon with him at his house, looking through his old military scrapbook and listening to him talk about his Army days.

As the years pass, there are fewer Pearl Harbor survivors left to share their stories with us firsthand. Someday, when they are all gone, the attack on Pearl Harbor will be remembered – thanks in no small part to Ottawa’s own Richard Foltynewicz.

Cheers, Folty.

This column was first published online at OttawaDelivered.com.

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