S1c Alonzo Jr. Pearce
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S1c Alonzo Jr. Pearce
Alonzo “Lon” Pearce Jr. was born Nov. 5, 1920 in or near Cushing, Oklahoma, a town with 6,300 residents about 60 miles northeast of the state capital. His father was a chemist in the oil business and his mother, Gertrude Allen, was a homemaker.
The family moved 80 miles east to Muskogee, population 32,000, before 1927, and young Alonzo graduated from Central High School there in 1937. He backtracked almost 100 miles west to Stillwater to attend Oklahoma A&M College, now Oklahoma State University, in 1938 and 1939. He played brass instruments in the band in both high school and college.
The Census conducted in May 1940 identified him as a resident of Nueces County, Texas near Corpus Christi and a welder’s helper in the oil industry, though it appears he was unemployed on the date the survey was taken.
Mr. Pearce enlisted in the Navy on Aug. 2, 1940 to earn enough to support his mother and two younger siblings. His father had an alcohol problem and Junior wanted to get the family away from him.
He trained in San Diego and could have remained there to teach welding, but he wanted to see the world. Mr. Pearce was a seaman first class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. He had been a member of the ship’s tennis team.
When his parents were officially notified of his death, his father stopped drinking.
“I know from my Dad that Junior was very serious and responsible,” his niece, Valerie Pearce wrote in 2020. Her father, Robert, was the youngest in the family and 10 when Junior died. “He was careful with his money to the point that many times he had five or six watches, and other pieces of jewelry he kept as collateral from his fellow sailors, because he always had money, but lent it out when his friends were in need or maybe not so good with their money. He always looked serious in his pictures we have of him too, even as a kid.”
Sources: Special thanks to Mr Pearce’s brother Robert for much of this information. Other sources include: the Muskogee (Oklahoma) Daily Phoenix; The Daily O’Collegian of Stillwater, Oklahoma; The Cushing (Oklahoma) Daily Citizen; Census; Navy muster roll; “At ‘Em Arizona,” the ship’s newspaper.