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Hundreds give final salute to Lou Conter at Grass Valley funeral, last survivor of USS Arizona

Lou Conter, last living survivor of USS Arizona, laid to rest in Grass Valley
Lou Conter, last living survivor of USS Arizona, laid to rest in Grass Valley 03:28

GRASS VALLEY -- Hundreds gathered at the St. Patrick Catholic Cemetery at Greenwood Memorial Gardens to honor the life and legacy of Lieutenant Commander Lou Conter on Tuesday, April 23.

Conter passed peacefully at 102 years old on April 1. He was the last living survivor from the USS Arizona, which sank during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

"He was a living legacy as to what happened at Pearl Harbor," said Kathleen Farley at the funeral, district director for the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors organization.

Family remembered Conter as a man who was dedicated to faith, family and country. He would earn his wings and fly 200 combat missions after Pearl Harbor, survive being shot down twice, and even go on to advise presidents and develop training for future Navy pilots.

"For me, we have to always remember. If you remember what happened in the past, it helps prevent it in the future. It's honoring all that have served and are serving," said Marco Del Rio, who attended the funeral representing the Knights of Columbus of Grass Valley.

Conter received full military honors at his graveside service, including the playing of Taps, a 21-gun salute, a military flyover and the folding of a flag presented to the Conter family.

"He lived a long, good life," Del Rio said. "Lou always told us stories. I've met him many times. We've talked a lot of times."

Many, some strangers and some who didn't know Conter well, still came out to pay their respects.

Moments from funeral for Grass Valley's Lou Conter, last living USS Arizona survivor 11:13

Gary Emanuel only met Conter once but wanted to honor his own father's legacy by attending the funeral as well.

"My dad, in fact, left Pearl Harbor just the day before the bombing, so I have that deep connection, too," Emanuel said. "It's a reminder to the younger people that people lost their lives and did great things to keep our country going."

Farley's father was aboard the U.S.S. California at Pearl Harbor and also survived. She now dedicates her life to organizing ceremonies that honor the last remaining Pearl Harbor survivors.

Farley is chapter president of Walnut Creek Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors and also serves as first director and the California State Chair of the organization that has more than 40,000 active members.

"They went over as young boys and came back as old men for what they saw," Farley said. "The Pearl Harbor Survivors motto is 'Remember Pearl Harbor – Keep America alert.' The Sons and Daughters motto is, 'Lest we forget.' "

Farley said with the loss of Lou Conter, there are so few left of the greatest generation.

"So now, I have 19 survivors left. Out of 87,000 that were there on Oahu on December 7, 1941. I'm down to 19," Farley said through tears.

Conter was laid to rest next to his wife of 45 years, Valerie.

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