Pearl Harbor survivor’s sage words at 100

Pearl Harbor survivor’s sage words at 100

Chuck Kohler, center, marked his 100th birthday with his children, from left, Mike, Debbie, Charlie and David at the Dana Hills Cabana Club. (Jon Haber photo)
Chuck Kohler. (Jon Haber photo)

CLAYTON, CA (Feb. 15, 2024) — It requires a special celebration to honor 100 years of life full of countless stories to share, ranging from surviving the attack on Pearl Harbor to building up the Bay Area.

With that in mind, family and friends gathered with Clayton resident Earl “Chuck” Kohler for his momentous landmark on Feb. 3 at the Dana Hills Cabana Club. It was all smiles and laughter, in his words, “a happy birthday.”

Kohler is one of the last survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor. An online search says as few as two dozen American military working at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, are still living.

At the age of 17, he joined the Navy and served as a petty officer first class and aviation metalsmith. He was stationed in the center of Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack, and despite direct orders, Kohler set up a 50-caliber machine gun and fired at the attacking aircraft.

Even with his heroic actions that day, Kohler is still left “wishing there was something else that I could have done.”

Family and community

Pearl Harbor survivor’s sage words at 100
Chuck Kohler with grand daughter (and Olympic medalist) Kara Kohler.

For most of his life after the Navy, he worked in heavy construction, earthmoving and building roads. “There’s hardly a main artery here in the Bay Area that you can drive on that I didn’t help to build at one time or another,” he noted.

With 14 years of military service and 79 years in the workforce, Kohler accumulated many accomplishments during his lifetime. However, when asked about his greatest achievement, his family came first.

Some of his favorite pastimes include camping with his family, boating and fishing. Kohler also dedicates a lot of time and money into protecting the beacon atop Mount Diablo.

At the most recent marking of the Pearl Harbor attack, Kohler announced that he would make a $6,000 contribution to Save Mount Diablo’s Beacon Fund so that the beacon can shine on for many years to come. Save Mount Diablo presented him with a special birthday card listing those who joined him in contributing to the fund.

With a life well-lived, Kohler is grateful for his family, friends and lessons that he has learned along the way. His advice for a long life is, “You always got to be busy. Keep the hand and the mind busy. And do whatever you see that has to be done – even if it’s not your responsibility. If it’s not being done, do it. And you’ll be glad that you did later.”

Corinne Jeandheur
Corinne Jeandheur

Corinne Jeandheur is a junior at Clayton Valley Charter High School.  She runs on the CVCHS cross country team in the fall as well as competing on the track and field team in the spring.  She also plays the piano and bakes in her free time.  Jeandheur is a member of the CVCHS Engineering and Design Academy and concluded her sophomore year with a 4.33 GPA.  She is serving as co-president of the California Scholarship Federation at Clayton Valley Charter this school year and continuing her academic and community involvement in the National Honor Society. She is very pleased to be writing the monthly Athlete Spotlight for the Pioneer.