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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Stuart Hedley, San Diego’s famous Pearl Harbor survivor, has died at age 99 from complications of COVID-19.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports Hedley, a longtime Clairemont resident, died Wednesday.

“Stu Hedley is a hero,” tweeted Mayor Todd Gloria. “He survived Pearl Harbor and spent the rest of his life ensuring San Diegans never forgot the date that lives in infamy.”

Hedley, who died 86 days short of his 100th birthday, headed up San Diego’s survivors chapter, which disbanded in 2019 due to lack of membership.

Dave Smith, founder of Honor Flight San Diego, said Hedley was “one who loved his country and one to serve his country.” Hedley made it through 13 engagements without injury, he said.

“He’s known as a Pearl Harbor survivor, but he actually saw combat around Guadalcanal and several other locations during World War II,” Smith said. “But he never talked about that. It’s very similar with a lot of our veterans. They don’t want to talk about that. They want to remember those that were lost.”

Although Hedley didn’t talk about everything, he wrote about a lot. He relived some of his bravest and scariest moments through the pages of his diary.

He opened up to FOX 5 about the Pearl Harbor attack in a past interview.

“The plane came right over the top of our ship about six feet and crashed in the ocean rather than into us,” Hedley said.

Smith said knowing Hedley was “like a history lesson every time we went someplace.” He took Hedley on an Honor Flight to Washington D.C. in 2012.

“It’s a major loss,” Smith said. “We were never closer to losing the freedoms that we so cherish today. We had Germany on one side, Italy on the other and Japan on the other. They were already making plans to carve up the United States so things would be much different if it weren’t for our heroes in World War II.”

A tweet from the Us For Warriors Foundation noted that Hedley was the sole survivor of the attack on the Battleship West Virginia on Dec. 7, 1941.

“His decades of advocacy for his fellow veterans made a difference and he will be missed,” Gloria tweeted. “Godspeed Stu.”

Hedley’s wife Wanda preceded him in death and is buried in the Miramar National Cemetery. He is scheduled to be buried at her side.

Details on a public ceremony to honor Hedley aboard the USS Midway are expected to be released soon.

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