Ernest Eugene Corey was born in Spokane, Washington on Sept. 8, 1920, to Ernest Roy Corey, a railroad fireman, and Bertha Mader Corey. They divorced the next year and the boy, known as Gene, was raised by an aunt and uncle, Elsie Corey Nupp and E. Roy Nupp.
Gene graduated in 1938 from North Central High in Spokane, where he played football and was a representative for the Boys’ Federation. Mr. Corey enlisted in the Navy on Sept. 15, 1939.
He met Sivia Irma Soder on a double-date when they were 19, and they married in June 1941 in Long Beach, California. By then Mr. Corey was serving on the U.S.S. Arizona, whose home port was at nearby San Pedro.
In a letter home to his wife in late November 1941, he said he was lonesome and pinpointed exactly when they’d last seen each other – four months and 18 days ago. He also inquired about their baby, Delores, and signed off “Your Ever Loving Husband, Gene.”
In an undated letter that must have been written at about the same time, he wrote: “Well the headlines in tonight’s paper say ‘Tokyo says war is on.’ Can’t believe everything you read in the papers, though. It hasn’t got me worried yet but in time it may have. I hope not, though. Must close for this time. I’ll dream about you and those lovely arms that should be around me that are not.” That letter, too, was signed “Your Ever Loving Husband, Gene.”
Mr. Corey was a pharmacist’s mate and petty officer third class when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
Tragedy for the young family did not end there. Mrs. Corey contracted tuberculosis and spent the last three years of her life at a TB sanatorium in Seattle. She died on May 10, 1945. Delores was raised by her maternal grandparents at their home in Seattle.
Sources: Special thanks to Delores Corey Johnson for much of this information and the photograph. Other sources are: Arizona State Archives; Washington birth record, Washington death certificate; California marriage license; the Missoulian (of Montana); The Montana Standard; the Semi-Weekly (Spokane, WA) Spokesman Review; the Spokane Chronicle; Census; Navy muster roll; North Central HIgh School yearbook. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.