Mary Pevelar Watkins made sure a wreath was placed the first week of every December at the war memorial outside the Jefferson County Courthouse in Louisville, Kentucky. The wreath honored her son, Lenvil Leo Watkins, a fireman second class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.
“I was only 16 when Lenvil was born,” she told a reporter in 1971. “He was my oldest and it hurt. It still does, even though it’s so long ago. But we have to take these things.”
Lenvil Leo Watkins was born Sept. 30, 1919 in Muhlenberg County, southwest of Louisville. His father, Robert Albert Watkins, was a loader at a coal mine and his mother a homemaker. The family, which included seven children, moved to Louisville in the early 1930s. Lenvil attended Eastern Junior High School. He enlisted in the US Navy on Oct. 5, 1937.
Pictured above: Mary & Robert Watkins hold a picture of their son Lenvil.
Mary Watkins said the family wasn’t officially informed of his death until Feb. 8, 1942. In the meantime, she said, they prayed for his survival and she checked the mailbox four or five times a day. “I tried to tell myself, ‘He’ll write. There’s a war on and he just can’t get time to write.’ “
Mrs. Watkins died in 1973.
Sources: Pictures courtesy of Lenvil’s nephew Jim Crane. The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky; Kentucky birth index; Census; Navy muster roll; Mary and Robert Watkins obituaries. Note that the Pevelar family name is variously spelled as Peveler and Peavler. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.