07 December 2006

Pearl Harbor sailor given final honor

Pearl Harbor sailor given final honor

Plaque at Analy to be dedicated Dec. 7

by Patricia M. Roth - Sonoma West Staff Writer

Randolph Franklin Theiller, one of 1,078 sailors, including three from Sonoma County, entombed aboard the U.S.S. Arizona.

SEBASTOPOL - A Sebastopol sailor who was killed in action during the bombing of Pearl Harbor 65 years ago will be memorialized in front of his hometown high school on Dec. 7.

The public is invited to the 3 p.m. (1500 hours military time) ceremony complete with taps and a 21-gun salute in honor of Randolph Franklin Theiller, one of 1,078 sailors, including three from Sonoma County, entombed aboard the U.S.S. Arizona.

“We're thrilled that he's finally being recognized. It's long overdue,” said Analy Principal Martin Webb, who will be one of the speakers at the memorial along with city, county and state dignitaries.

A highlight of the event, sponsored by Gold Ridge Post 3919, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, will be the unveiling of a cast aluminum memorial plaque that will hang forever near the entrance to Analy High School, from which Theiller graduated when he was 16 years old in 1939.

The ceremony will give guests an opportunity to reflect on what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called “a date which will live in infamy” and, moreover, to remember a teenager from the Hessel area south of Sebastopol who played high school basketball and football, was active in Future Farmers of America, showed his Hampshire and Duroc hogs at the Sonoma County Fair and later received a state degree in agriculture and a Gold Key Award from the governor for being one of the top students in the state.

Larry Graham, 85, of Sebastopol “chummed around” with Theiller during high school, and especially enjoyed driving him back and forth to basketball and football games in his yellow 1929 Model A Ford Roadster.

“He was a good friend. I feel I was fortunate to have been a buddy of his, and I'm honored to say he was my friend,” said Graham.

He remembered Theiller as being “a quiet fellow” who was “well oriented about what he wanted to do with his life and where he was going and how he was going to get there.

“Like my grand dad said, ‘He's the kind of guy that has his feet on the ground.'”

Graham said that during the last semester (of high school), Theiller talked a lot about joining the navy. “He felt that would help him get to where he wanted to go. It was either that or go to the JC or try to find some kind of a job, and there weren't a lot of jobs at that time for people getting out of high school. We knew the world was not really at rest. There were so many conflicts around the world, it was inevitable that something like Pearl Harbor was going to happen.”

According to a biography Robert Theiller wrote about his brother for the upcoming Memorial Dedication Program, Theiller's parents (Rudolph and Martha Theiller) wanted their son to enroll at Santa Rosa Junior College and finish his education at a four year university. But “the U.S. was just coming out of the Great Depression ... he didn't wanted to burden his parents with that cost.”

Theiller enlisted in the Navy “to learn a trade and see the world” on August 6, 1940, attended boot camp in San Diego and was assigned to the U.S.S. Arizona on Oct. 14, 1940. He was inducted in the Navy as an Apprentice Seaman and by Sept. 1, 1941 had advanced to the rank of Seaman First Class before his death on Dec. 7, 1941.

“We knew soon after Rudy had been killed that he was at Pearl Harbor. It was not a happy day,” said his friend Graham.

However, Graham explained that the rest of his friends were being faced with “the same sort of thing. It was just a thing on our backs that was going to happen” as his three brothers and most of his classmates were either drafted or enlisted.

“The fact that Rudy lost his life was a sad thing for all of us,” he said.

Graham, a Navy pilot, and his brothers came home from the war. “But it was not easy on my parents, and I'm sure it wasn't easy on Rudy's mother or father either,” he said.

Sebastopol native Jim Nagy, who was a junior at Analy High School during the attack on Pearl Harbor, is active with and serves as adjutant for the Gold Ridge Post 3919, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. He and Jim Richter, commander of the post, will be the masters of ceremonies for the Analy High School event.

The idea for the dedication came last year after a Pearl Harbor Survivors breakfast. “Four or five of us said it's a wonder nothing had been done for Rudy from the community. We thought it would be a nice gesture to do something,” he said.

The two other sailors who died on the U.S.S. Arizona were from Santa Rosa: George Maybe and Robert Montgomery, who has Montgomery High School named after him.

According to military records, Theiller was listed as missing until March of 1942. “His mother traveled to Letterman Hospital in San Francisco two to three times a week to talk to the wounded sailors who came back to see if they knew anything about her son, hoping that someone saw him,” Nagy said.

Although Theiller's parents are no longer living, his brother Robert will be present at the ceremony with his wife and children - and will be presented with the American flag from members of the United States Naval Guard.

Members of the Analy High School Band will perform “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Along with MCs Nagy and Richter, speakers will include Martin Webb, principal of Analy High School; Frank Sennello, Pearl Harbors Survivors, Chapter 23; Michael Whitaker, Analy High 11th grade student; Chris Smith, Press Democrat columnist; Mike Reilly, Fifth District Supervisor; Nancy Bennett, Deputy Director S.F. Branch of Governor's Office; Sam Pierce, Sebastopol mayor; Jeff Weaver, Sebastopol police chief; and Larry Graham, Analy High Class of 1939.

The Santa Rosa American Legion Post 21 will furnish the rifle squad and a bugler, who will play the hauntingly beautiful bugle call, “Taps.”

Chaplain Bill Brandt of VFW Post 3919 will give the closing prayer.

Members of the community in attendance will include Analy High School alumni, the Analy High School band and students, 2006-07 Sebastopol Future Farmers of America officers, students from Santa Rosa Junior College Agricultural Leadership Program and BSA Troops 14 and 27 of Sebastopol.

When asked what attendees can expect during the ceremony, Nagy responded: “Some of them that knew classmates, they can reminisce. They all knew who Rudy was ... the class was small at the time, 120 at most. They can expect maybe humor, or a bringing back of memories of their own family and close relatives. And of course, appreciation for the people and shipmates that never knew what was about to happen that day ... and, they can expect tears.”

What: Rudolph Franklin Theiller Memorial Dedication

Date: Dec. 7, 2006

Time: 3 p.m/1500 hours

Place: Analy High School, 6950 Analy Ave., Sebastopol

No comments: