||Stan Van Hoose of Beloit, 96, a survivor of Pearl Harbor, was an honored guest at the 75th Commemoration Festivities in Honolulu held in December of 2016. He is wearing one of his many Navy caps he treasures and holding one he received at the commemoration. He is a charter member of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish. (Pat Casucci photo)
BELOIT -- At 96 years, Stan Van Hoose, a charter member of Our Lady of the Assumption (OLA) Parish, says he’s "still a sailor at heart."
He served in the U.S. Navy and is a Pearl Harbor survivor. He was involved in seven major naval battles during his five years of service in World War II (WWII.) After the war, he re-enlisted in the Navy to serve an additional three years.
Memories still vivid
He was serving aboard the USS Maryland on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor.
He said another ship, the USS Oklahoma, was tied to his ship. “It turned over first, killing more than 400 members of her crew. It protected us,” he recalled.
His memories of the attack on that sunny morning are still very vivid as he summarized, “It was like being in hell for us with bombs dropping everywhere and fires burning.”
Honored at 75th Commemoration festivities
He returned to Honolulu last December 2016 as an honored guest at the Pearl Harbor 75th Commemoration festivities. Along with about 250 veterans of the battles, he was greeted with leis, balloons, and dedicated admiration.
“We (the veterans) were treated like royalty,” said Van Hoose proudly recalling the events and fanfare for the occasion. He admitted to being “overwhelmed” at all the attention.
“I know I shook with emotion many times during the week’s events,” Van Hoose admitted.
He said in addition to the very somber commemoration ceremonies at the USS Arizona Memorial, there were tours of island attractions like the Dole pineapple plantation, a visit to Wheeler Army Airfield, and stops at National Memorial Cemeteries. There was a solemn ceremony at the USS Oklahoma.
“I was asked to speak and tell about my memories several times,” said Van Hoose.
As he reached for his treasured memory book of pictures taken during the trip, he quipped, “I learned a bit about Hawaiian history, too.”
Among sundry items he received from the event, the memory book has pictures of Van Hoose and many others as they participated and enjoyed the commemoration activities.
Friend made arrangements
He expressed deep appreciation to Laura Stoller, whom he calls his “adopted granddaughter.”
Stoller, a longtime friend and member of OLA, made all the arrangements for the special trip. “All I had to do was go,” he said.
Van Hoose said he is a longtime friend of Stoller’s grandparents. “Laura is a teacher in the Madison area. With the help of other friends, she raised the money and made everything possible for me to attend. She accompanied me on the trip, too,” he said.
Lifetime of adventures
Van Hoose likes to discuss his lifetime of adventures that began in the hills of his native Kentucky. Displayed in his small apartment are pictures, statues, naval hats, and other memorabilia depicting the sea and naval ships. The United States flag, a crucifix, and religious statues also are prominent.
In his forthright manner, Van Hoose said, “I'm proud of the United States Navy and proud of our country.”
Dedicated to his faith, for several years he took Communion to local people in their homes and in nursing homes, as well as working on committees at OLA. He reads two newspapers every day and added, “I’m a proud Packers and Brewers fan, too.” He noted that he’s enjoyed playing guitar, banjo, and harmonica.
“My life has been enjoyable as heck, and I like Beloit. It’s been good to me,” he emphasized with a knowing smile.
Another fond experience for Van Hoose is the VetsRoll trip to Washington, D.C., in 2014. “This was a wonderful trip because I got to visit with so many other veterans. I was never treated better,” he said.
He served on four different ships during WWII and sailed through the Suez Canal four different times.
He remembers the different ships he served on, the battles, and the vicious storms that occurred.
“I know God put me here for a reason,” said this man from the hills of Paintsville, Ky. “I loved to roam the hills with my German Shepherd dog. My father was a coal miner who taught me how to take care of myself. He always told me, ‘don’t ever start a fight nor leave one,’” he recalled.
Joined the Navy
Continuing to reminisce, he said, “I could have gone to college, but I joined the Navy because I wanted to see the world. The Navy allowed that. I was a navigator for four different ships in three oceans and 16 seas. I’ve enjoyed travel all my life.”
Van Hoose said he was asleep on his ship when the Japanese warplanes hit Pearl Harbor. He didn’t have duty until noon that day. But all that changed, he recalled, so he ran to his battle station and witnessed what he tells people -- “the beginning of the storm.” He saw the USS Oklahoma capsize, and the USS Arizona blow up with the immense loss of life.
He eventually opened his own business in Beloit as a Kirby Vacuum dealer.