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Pearl Harbor volunteer was ‘great friend’ to grieving families

  • U.S. NAVY PHOTO / 2011

    Retired Navy Master Chief Jim Taylor, who died May 20, oversaw the burials of nearly 300 survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack whose ashes were scattered in the harbor or interred in the sunken USS Arizona.

Jim Taylor served 33 years on active duty in the Navy, retiring in 1989 as command master chief of the “Blue Geese” of Patrol Squadron 22 at Naval Air Station Barbers Point.

But it was during the latter decades of his life that he became a Navy legend in Pearl Harbor.

Volunteering as the Pearl Harbor Survivors Liaison for the Navy Region Hawaii public affairs office, Taylor oversaw and participated in nearly 300 burial honors for deceased Pearl Harbor survivors whose ashes were scattered at the USS Utah Memorial or placed within the sunken battleship USS Arizona.

After 63 years of service to the Navy — including a civil servant job at Naval Brig Ford Island — Taylor died May 20 of complications from cancer. He was 80.

“We lost a great one here at Pearl Harbor,” Navy Region Hawaii wrote on its Facebook page. “The best damn master chief the U.S. Navy ever had has passed away. Jim Taylor, Navy volunteer extraordinaire, was dedicated, old school, beloved and a great shipmate to all.”

Taylor’s loss was quickly felt by the families who received his assistance over the years.

“I am sad to hear this news,” Rick Miller wrote on the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Facebook page. “Jim was responsible for coordinating Dad’s service at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 2000. He made sure that we were taken care of during our trip and that Dad was honored. We kept in touch with Jim over the last 18 years and he was a great friend to all the Pearl Harbor survivors and their families.”

In 2011, then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead pinned the Presidential Volunteer Service Award on Taylor — who was wearing one of his dozens of trademark aloha shirts at the time.

“It is individuals like you who make our Navy and nation a better place,” Roughead said.

The Toledo, Ohio, native joined the Navy in 1956 and served with seven ships and aviation squadrons. In the 1960s and 1970s, “Jimbo” was one of Hawaii’s top bowlers, active in Leeward leagues and on a military all-star squad, his family said.

“Residing in Hawaii 56 years, Jim loved the ocean, deep sea fishing, sports and spending time with friends and his loving ohana,” the family said.

Taylor summed up his passion for honoring Pearl Harbor survivors at the 2014 scattering of the ashes of Chief Petty Officer Robert Knight and Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Harry Smith.

“Every man and woman who served during that terrible war were, and still are, heroes,” Taylor said at the time.

Another passion for Taylor was getting more recognition for the USS Utah, a target training ship on the west side of Ford Island. Fifty-eight crew members are still entombed on the sunken warship from the Dec. 7, 1941, attack.

In December, at the ceremony marking the 77th anniversary of the sinking, Taylor announced that the memorial, long closed to the public because of its location on an active Navy base, would become accessible to the public.

Taylor is survived by his wife of 60 years, Leonora; mother Anabelle, who is 100; brother Richard; and children Cora, Janice, James Jr. and Leilani; and 11 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.

Services are scheduled for June 27 at the Pearl Harbor base chapel on Frederick Street. Visitation is at 9:30 a.m., a service is scheduled for 10 a.m., and Punchbowl cemetery interment will be at 1 p.m. Base passes can be obtained by calling 473-2924.

A celebration of life will be held from 5-8:30 p.m. at Keehi Lagoon, Weinberg Memorial Hall off Nimitz Highway.

Taylor “was always there to honor those who gave all. Now it is his turn to be honored by all. RIP master chief,” Ernest Arroyo wrote on the joint base’s web page.

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