Richard Oyler of San Clemente often spoke of how fortunate he was to have survived the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, during which his ship took hits that left dozens dead or wounded. Oyler went on to survive World War II and live a fulfilling, productive life, including 67 years married to his soul mate, Lenore, whom he had met while both were serving in the Navy.
Richard Oyler survived the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and went on to own a flooring and drapery business in San Clemente. He died Sept. 13 at age 88. On Saturday, both will be remembered at a memorial service in San Clemente. Richard died of congestive heart failure Sept. 13, his family said. His wife followed him three days later after enduring Alzheimer's disease. Both were 88.
The service is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 470 Camino San Clemente. The couple will be laid to rest at Miramar National Cemetery, 5795 Nobel Drive, San Diego.
Richard Oyler recalled in interviews decades after the war how, on a quiet Sunday morning in 1941, he was finishing breakfast in the mess hall of the USS Curtiss when he heard explosions. His curiosity turned to shock as he peered out an open cargo hatch to see a torpedo plane dive toward the battleship USS Utah. "We saw it let go of its torpedo," Oyler said, "and the torpedo hit the Utah. We knew we were under attack. The Utah sank in 20 minutes."
Oyler, then 18, and other crew members sprang into action as the Curtiss, a seaplane tender, did all it could to fight back. Oyler said the Curtiss fired on a submarine when its periscope appeared, and the ship managed to shoot down several enemy aircraft. Among the ship's casualties was his friend Nick Ganas. "I have often thought since, had my battle station not changed just weeks before, I would be there with Nick," Oyler said in a 1991 memoir commemorating the 50th anniversary of the attack. In his battle station that fateful day, he was the captain's talker, relaying orders from the captain while stationed on the bridge. The Curtiss was repaired and Oyler continued to serve on the ship through the war.
He had enlisted in the Navy in July 1941 at age 17, the family said. Lenore enlisted as a WAVE in August 1944. They were married July 21, 1945, and settled in Lone Pine, Calif., after the war. They made their way to San Clemente in 1977, purchasing the Decor Center, a flooring and drapery business. They were avid genealogists and served missions for the church in Palau, Micronesia and Boston. They are survived by three daughters, three sons, 23 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.