The Peru Veterans Memorial Group honored the memories of those lost at Pearl Harbor with its 37th annual Pearl Harbor Day Parade and Memorial Service on Saturday.
The parade began at the Peru Rescue Station and ended at the South Shore Boat Club, where the memorial service was held.
Navy veteran Dennis Znaniecki of the Peru Veterans Memorial Group said the service was dedicated to Robert “Navy Bob” Ankiewicz, who died in April, and Hobart “Hoby” Van Deventer, who died in August. Znaniecki said Van Deventer, who lived in Streator, was the last Pearl Harbor survivor who regularly attended Peru’s memorial service. Znaniecki also asked for a moment of silence for former president George H.W. Bush, who died Friday.
Former Illinois Valley resident and Navy veteran Master Chief Petty Officer Tim Fonderoli was the guest speaker for the event. He retired from active duty in September 1997.
“I turned 17 years old Dec. 2, 1975. Dec. 9, 1975, I took the oath. May 1976, I graduated from LaMoille High School. One month later I reported for active duty,” Fonderoli said. “I was scared. I was questioning myself. Did I make the right decision? I’m proud to say I served my country.”
He said when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor 77 years ago, America came together to bring an end to the war.
“The American people, no matter what race, no matter what religion, no matter what sex, they pulled together and united to make sacrifices to fight to the end and win this war. Some people couldn’t fight, so they did what they could to contribute.”
He said many people in the Illinois Valley worked at the Seneca shipyards or the Westclox factory and contributed to the war effort, as did the farmers who provided food.
Fonderoli served in Pearl Harbor for three years and remembers how each year there would be a special tribute.
“Every Dec. 7, we would be in our dress whites, and we would have a memorial service to honor all those who lost their lives, all those who served, to let them know that they would never be forgotten,” Fonderoli said. “I’m proud to say that out of all my travels, all the places I’ve been only here in the Illinois Valley, besides Pearl Harbor, do they still pay honor, to let everyone know all those who have passed, all those who served, and all those who are currently serving, we have not forgotten; we will never forget.”
At the end of the service, Fonderoli threw flowers into the Illinois River, and the firing squad performed the 21-gun salute.