Pearl Harbor vet celebrates 99th birthday

Navy veteran Clarence E. Lux, a Pearl Harbor survivor, reads his 99th birthday card with his friend Jim Slominski during a celebration Nov. 16 at the Roost in Yucca Valley.

YUCCA VALLEY — Veteran Clarence E. Lux, a Pearl Harbor survivor who has called the Morongo Basin home for more than four decades, celebrates his 99th birthday this year.

Lux gathered with a group of veterans to celebrate on Nov. 16, the day before his birthday, at the Roost at Hawk’s Landing in Yucca Valley. 

Lux dined on eggs with toast and strawberry jam.

When asked what it feels like to be 99 years old he just smiled, looked up from his eggs and said simply, “It’s the same as any other day.”

Three people attended the party and many had to opt out due to feeling ill with flu-like symptoms.

“We didn’t want Clarence to get sick,” said Jim Slominski, with the Elks.

Dave Hinkle and Slominski, who joined Lux for his birthday, are both veterans. Slominski served in the Army and Hinkle in the Air force. 

Lux’s big, colorful birthday card was signed by dozens of people, including Raul Ruiz, a U.S. congressman for California’s 36th District since 2013.

Lux enlisted in the U.S. Navy in the 1940s and was stationed on the USS Tennessee when the attack on Pearl Harbor shook America.

“I was on the Tennessee and that didn’t get sunk that day but all of those ships around us did,” Lux told the Hi-Desert Star last year. “It was just luck that I got out alive.”

Slominski said he loves hearing stories about Pearl Harbor from his friend.

“Some of the stories he tells are phenomenal,” he said.

Lux was discharged from the Navy as a chief petty officer in 1946 and went to work firing boilers for the Veterans Administration hospital in west Los Angeles.

He moved to Yucca Valley in 1975 and continued his service as a volunteer at the Hi-Desert Medical Center and a parishioner at St. Mary of the Valley Catholic Church.

He has also helped as a volunteer with the Soldiers Organized Services (SOS). Lux has two daughters and said he proudly lives by himself.

While no one knows for sure how many survivors of Pearl Harbor are still alive today, Eileen Martinez, chief of interpretation for the USS Arizona Memorial, estimated that about 2,000 of the 60,000 original survivors were alive about six years ago when the numbers were calculated.

Those numbers have decreased since as the survivors move into their late 90s or triple digits.

About 50,000 American service members were on Oahu on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, when waves of Japanese airplanes arrived from aircraft carriers offshore and destroyed much of the Pacific Fleet in a surprise attack that shoved the United States into World War II. About 2,400 Americans were killed and another 1,200 injured.

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