SK1c John James Housel,
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SK1c John James Housel
On Saturday, Dec. 6, 1941, the day before he died, John James Housel finished Christmas shopping in Honolulu for his family in Sedalia, Missouri. He also wrote a letter and enclosed a check for his mother, Maude.
The letter, postmarked 11 a.m., Dec. 7, was sent by air.
Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor just before 8 that Sunday morning, but the postmark, briefly, gave hope to his mother and sisters that Mr. Housel survived.
It was not to be. Mr. Housel, a storekeeper and petty officer first class on the U.S.S. Arizona, returned to the ship on Saturday night. The next day the attack resulted in his death and the deaths of 1,176 of his shipmates.
The Navy notified Mrs. Housel of her son’s death in a message to the local telegram office at 5 a.m. on Dec. 21. It wasn’t open yet, but the message was received at the Missouri Pacific railroad depot, where an officer asked a policeman to deliver the news to her in person.
John James Housel was born Jan. 9, 1911 to Eddie Housel, a painter, and Maude Gordy Housel, a homemaker. He graduated from Smith-Cotton High School in 1929. His parents divorced in November 1931, and he enlisted in the Navy on March 16, 1932.
One of his sisters, Marie, remembered years later that when he was on leave back home he taught her how to wash and iron Navy style. He also learned to play the guitar and ukulele in the Navy.
A memorial service honored Mr. Housel in February 1942 at East Sedalia Baptist Church. Flags from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion Post 16 and the Henderson Negro American Legion surrounded the pulpit, the Sedalia Democrat reported.
“Under a floodlight and directly in front of the pulpit were two large pictures draped in rich crimson velvet and banked on all sides by a large number of floral pieces. The two pictures were one fine picture of John dressed in his Navy uniform and the other was a beautiful picture of the U.S.S. Arizona, the ship on which he lost his life.”
His Christmas gifts arrived in Sedalia weeks after the attack.
An even greater gift was his planning, perhaps through life insurance, to take care of his mother, who lived to 96. She was able to purchase a house and received a check each month, her daughter Marie told a student from his old high school.