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San Diego Pearl Harbor survivor dies from COVID-19

U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Stu Hedley passed away on Wednesday due to complications from COVID-19. He spent a lifetime dedicated to his country and community.

SAN DIEGO — One of San Diego’s last living Pearl Harbor survivors passed away this week from complications due to COVID-19.

U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Stu Hedley would have turned 100 in October.

Hedley served on the U.S.S West Virginia when it was torpedoed and fought in more than a dozen battles.

At the 2020 Spirit of 45 event, the anniversary to commemorate the the end of World War II, Stu Hedley told News 8 the importance of honoring V-Day over J-Day. 

“It's a remembrance of men that were willing to lay their life on the line to defend the freedom and the rights of our country,” said Hedley.

On Aug. 4, Hedley died from complications due to COVID-19. Despite being encouraged to get vaccinated, he declined.

He was planning to attend the 80th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack in Hawaii in December. 

“This man is a true American hero he survived Pearl Harbor, he survived battle of the Midway he has given back to his community and so many ways and it wasn't the right way to go out,” said Holly Shaffner, LCDR USCG veteran, Honor Flight San Diego Director of Public Relations.

She met Hedley through Honor Flight San Diego and has grown close with him, especially during the pandemic. Honor Flight is a non-profit that sends WWII and Korean War veterans to Washington D.C. to visit their memorials.

In 2011, he was one of the first veterans to go on the San Diego flight and when he returned he became an Honor Flight ambassador and encouraged other veterans to go on the trip.

“I'm sure they said if Stu can do it so can I,” said Shaffner.

The World War II veteran said he owed his faith to surviving the war. He was a deacon at Shadow Mountain Church and was the President of The Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. He often spoke to students and educated them about Pearl Harbor and much more.

“The stories he told children you would have never gotten in a history book,” said Shaffner.

He often told students about freedom.

“Freedom is not free. Freedom is gained at a price,” said Hedley.

He spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy but committed his legacy was in community service.

“We disagreed on a lot of things but what we did agree on was service, being of service to our country and to our community in whatever way that was,” said CMDCM Kathy Hansen, U.S. Navy veteran.

Hansen met Hedley 20 years ago while commanding over the U.S.S. Pearl Harbor.

Shortly after, there was the 9/11 attack on America. For the last two decades she traveled with Stu across the country. He says he spoke to 200,000 people about Pearl Harbor.

“Stu's mission was to carry the message of Pearl Harbor that America remembered and didn't forget,” said Hansen.

Now she is planning his memorial, so no one ever forgets an American hero.

A public memorial is scheduled for Aug. 25 at 9 a.m. on the U.S.S. Midway. A private burial service will be held at Miramar National Cemetery where he be laid to rest next to his wife Wanda, who he was married to for 64 years.

Cards can be sent to:

The Hedley Family

3665 Conrad Ave

San Diego, CA 92117

Correction: News 8 first reported Stu Hedley was San Diego's last living Pearl Harbor survivor, it has been corrected that he is one of the last living Pearl Harbor survivors. 

WATCH RELATED: Pearl Harbor Survivors in San Diego 1985 

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