CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Coastal Bend said goodbye to one of its heroes Tuesday, as World War II veteran A.J. Dunn was laid to rest at Seaside Memorial Park.
Dunn passed away November 23 at the age of 98.
He was one of the area's last remaining Pearl Harbor survivors. His family and friends described him an American hero who lived through one of the darkest hours in American History.
“My grandfather was a hero, not only to America but to me and my family,” said granddaughter Kimberly Thorne.
Abner James Dunn, or A.J., was born October 23, 1922 in Corpus Christi. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1940, and was assigned to the USS Oglala, a minelayer docked at Pearl Harbor, December 7th, 1941.
“What was it? One hell of a surprise,” said Pearl Harbor survivor Bob Batterson.
Batterson and Dunn didn’t know each other at Pearl Harbor, they met much later in life through the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. In fact, Batterson didn’t know he and Dunn were fighting fires on the same ships that day. He learned Tuesday as Dunn’s
“(I) Wish we had time to have gotten together and talked some more,” said Batterson.
For Dunn, Pearl Harbor was a defining moment.
“It was the most important part of his life, he talked about Pearl Harbor all the time,” said his widow, Grace Dunn.
Grace met A.J. in 2010 when he was 87 years old. Already a widow herself, she was hired to take care of Dunn after his first wife of 60 years, Claudine, passed. They soon fell in love.
“I started there in May, we were married in September,” she said. “We said we know we don’t have a lot of years, but we can have a lot of good days.”
In 10 years, A.J. and Grace did have a lot of good days. Relatives were glad to have had years.
“I was his sidekick growing up, he was a great man.,” said Thorne.
Thorne says Dunn taught her everything, from walking and talking to sailing. She knows her grandfather is in a better place.
“He would tell me “Kim, on the day I die I don’t want anybody sad or crying,” Thoirne recalled. “I want you to throw a big party, with balloons and streamers because I’m in heaven.”
While there were some tears at Dunn’s funeral, it served, as he wished, as a celebration of his life; but it also served as a reminder that America’s “Greatest Generation” will soon be gone.