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Pearl Harbor survivor thrives meeting visitors

  • In this photo taken Nov. 22, 2013, Herb Weatherwax, seated, poses for a photo with Hauula Elementary School sixth graders from left Dawson Langinbelik, Rachel Cheney, Frank Kojima, La'a Beatty, Chase Colleado, Makoa Ahquin-Soren and Keola Baily in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The 96-year-old retired electrician is one of four Pearl Harbor survivors who volunteers to greet visitors at the historic site. On Saturday is the 72nd anniversary of the 1941 attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)

    In this photo taken Nov. 22, 2013, Herb Weatherwax, seated, poses for a photo with Hauula Elementary School sixth graders from left Dawson Langinbelik, Rachel Cheney, Frank Kojima, La'a Beatty, Chase Colleado, Makoa Ahquin-Soren and Keola Baily in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The 96-year-old retired electrician is one of four Pearl Harbor survivors who volunteers to greet visitors at the historic site. On Saturday is the 72nd anniversary of the 1941 attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)

  • In this photo taken Nov. 22, 2013, Herb Weatherwax, right, poses for a photo with Raphaelle Yax of from Austin, Texas in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The 96-year-old retired electrician is one of four Pearl Harbor survivors who volunteers to greet visitors at the historic site. On Saturday is the 72nd anniversary of the 1941 attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)

    In this photo taken Nov. 22, 2013, Herb Weatherwax, right, poses for a photo with Raphaelle Yax of from Austin, Texas in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The 96-year-old retired electrician is one of four Pearl Harbor survivors who volunteers to greet visitors at the historic site. On Saturday is the 72nd anniversary of the 1941 attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)

  • In this photo taken Nov. 22, 2013, Herb Weatherwax, left, talks to a visitor in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The 96-year-old retired electrician is one of four Pearl Harbor survivors who volunteers to greet people at the historic site. On Saturday is the 72nd anniversary of the 1941 attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)

    In this photo taken Nov. 22, 2013, Herb Weatherwax, left, talks to a visitor in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The 96-year-old retired electrician is one of four Pearl Harbor survivors who volunteers to greet people at the historic site. On Saturday is the 72nd anniversary of the 1941 attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)

  • FILE - Sheriff's deputies work near the wreckage of a Porsche that crashed into a light pole in Valencia, Calif., killing "Fast & Furious" star Paul Walker in this Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013 file photo. Detectives arrested Jameson Witty, 18,  Thursday Dec. 5, 2013 accused of stealing some wreckage from the Porsche as it was being towed from the accident scene and a second suspect was planning to turn himself in, authorities said. (AP Photo/The Santa Clarita Valley Signal, Dan Watson, File)

    FILE - Sheriff's deputies work near the wreckage of a Porsche that crashed into a light pole in Valencia, Calif., killing "Fast & Furious" star Paul Walker in this Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013 file photo. Detectives arrested Jameson Witty, 18, Thursday Dec. 5, 2013 accused of stealing some wreckage from the Porsche as it was being towed from the accident scene and a second suspect was planning to turn himself in, authorities said. (AP Photo/The Santa Clarita Valley Signal, Dan Watson, File)

  • FILE - Sheriff's deputies work near the wreckage of a Porsche that crashed into a light pole in Valencia, Calif., killing "Fast & Furious" star Paul Walker in this Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013 file photo. Detectives arrested Jameson Witty, 18,  Thursday Dec. 5, 2013 accused of stealing some wreckage from the Porsche as it was being towed from the accident scene and a second suspect was planning to turn himself in, authorities said. (AP Photo/The Santa Clarita Valley Signal, Dan Watson, File)

    FILE - Sheriff's deputies work near the wreckage of a Porsche that crashed into a light pole in Valencia, Calif., killing "Fast & Furious" star Paul Walker in this Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013 file photo. Detectives arrested Jameson Witty, 18, Thursday Dec. 5, 2013 accused of stealing some wreckage from the Porsche as it was being towed from the accident scene and a second suspect was planning to turn himself in, authorities said. (AP Photo/The Santa Clarita Valley Signal, Dan Watson, File)

  • United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base Thursday night at 11:14 carrying a NRO satellite.  The Atlas V rocket, carrying a secret payload for the U.S. government,  lit up the night sky at about 11:15 p.m. Thursday Dec. 5, 2013, lifting off from Vandenberg Air Force Base toward low-Earth orbit. (AP Photo/United Launch Alliance, Daniel Dreifuss)

    United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base Thursday night at 11:14 carrying a NRO satellite. The Atlas V rocket, carrying a secret payload for the U.S. government, lit up the night sky at about 11:15 p.m. Thursday Dec. 5, 2013, lifting off from Vandenberg Air Force Base toward low-Earth orbit. (AP Photo/United Launch Alliance, Daniel Dreifuss)

  • United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base Thursday night at 11:14 carrying a NRO satellite.  The Atlas V rocket, carrying a secret payload for the U.S. government,  lit up the night sky at about 11:15 p.m. Thursday Dec. 5, 2013, lifting off from Vandenberg Air Force Base toward low-Earth orbit. (AP Photo/United Launch Alliance, Daniel Dreifuss)

    United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base Thursday night at 11:14 carrying a NRO satellite. The Atlas V rocket, carrying a secret payload for the U.S. government, lit up the night sky at about 11:15 p.m. Thursday Dec. 5, 2013, lifting off from Vandenberg Air Force Base toward low-Earth orbit. (AP Photo/United Launch Alliance, Daniel Dreifuss)

  • FILE - In this Aug. 9, 2003 file photo, an unidentified person look as the menu of Siro's restaurant in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The Daily Gazette of Schenectady on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 reported that the iconic Saratoga Springs, N.Y. restaurant, whose owners include “Entourage” actors Kevin Connolly and Kevin Dillon, has been put up for sale for an asking price of $1.85 million. (AP Photo/Jim McKnight, File)

    FILE - In this Aug. 9, 2003 file photo, an unidentified person look as the menu of Siro's restaurant in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The Daily Gazette of Schenectady on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 reported that the iconic Saratoga Springs, N.Y. restaurant, whose owners include “Entourage” actors Kevin Connolly and Kevin Dillon, has been put up for sale for an asking price of $1.85 million. (AP Photo/Jim McKnight, File)

  • FILE - In this Aug. 9, 2003 file photo, an unidentified person look as the menu of Siro's restaurant in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The Daily Gazette of Schenectady on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 reported that the iconic Saratoga Springs, N.Y. restaurant, whose owners include “Entourage” actors Kevin Connolly and Kevin Dillon, has been put up for sale for an asking price of $1.85 million. (AP Photo/Jim McKnight, File)

    FILE - In this Aug. 9, 2003 file photo, an unidentified person look as the menu of Siro's restaurant in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The Daily Gazette of Schenectady on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 reported that the iconic Saratoga Springs, N.Y. restaurant, whose owners include “Entourage” actors Kevin Connolly and Kevin Dillon, has been put up for sale for an asking price of $1.85 million. (AP Photo/Jim McKnight, File)

  • In this photo taken Nov. 22, 2013, Herb Weatherwax, seated, poses for a photo with Hauula Elementary School sixth graders from left Dawson Langinbelik, Rachel Cheney, Frank Kojima, La'a Beatty, Chase Colleado, Makoa Ahquin-Soren and Keola Baily in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The 96-year-old retired electrician is one of four Pearl Harbor survivors who volunteers to greet visitors at the historic site. On Saturday is the 72nd anniversary of the 1941 attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
  • In this photo taken Nov. 22, 2013, Herb Weatherwax, right, poses for a photo with Raphaelle Yax of from Austin, Texas in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The 96-year-old retired electrician is one of four Pearl Harbor survivors who volunteers to greet visitors at the historic site. On Saturday is the 72nd anniversary of the 1941 attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
  • In this photo taken Nov. 22, 2013, Herb Weatherwax, left, talks to a visitor in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The 96-year-old retired electrician is one of four Pearl Harbor survivors who volunteers to greet people at the historic site. On Saturday is the 72nd anniversary of the 1941 attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
  • FILE - Sheriff's deputies work near the wreckage of a Porsche that crashed into a light pole in Valencia, Calif., killing "Fast & Furious" star Paul Walker in this Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013 file photo. Detectives arrested Jameson Witty, 18,  Thursday Dec. 5, 2013 accused of stealing some wreckage from the Porsche as it was being towed from the accident scene and a second suspect was planning to turn himself in, authorities said. (AP Photo/The Santa Clarita Valley Signal, Dan Watson, File)
  • FILE - Sheriff's deputies work near the wreckage of a Porsche that crashed into a light pole in Valencia, Calif., killing "Fast & Furious" star Paul Walker in this Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013 file photo. Detectives arrested Jameson Witty, 18,  Thursday Dec. 5, 2013 accused of stealing some wreckage from the Porsche as it was being towed from the accident scene and a second suspect was planning to turn himself in, authorities said. (AP Photo/The Santa Clarita Valley Signal, Dan Watson, File)
  • United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base Thursday night at 11:14 carrying a NRO satellite.  The Atlas V rocket, carrying a secret payload for the U.S. government,  lit up the night sky at about 11:15 p.m. Thursday Dec. 5, 2013, lifting off from Vandenberg Air Force Base toward low-Earth orbit. (AP Photo/United Launch Alliance, Daniel Dreifuss)
  • United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base Thursday night at 11:14 carrying a NRO satellite.  The Atlas V rocket, carrying a secret payload for the U.S. government,  lit up the night sky at about 11:15 p.m. Thursday Dec. 5, 2013, lifting off from Vandenberg Air Force Base toward low-Earth orbit. (AP Photo/United Launch Alliance, Daniel Dreifuss)
  • FILE - In this Aug. 9, 2003 file photo, an unidentified person look as the menu of Siro's restaurant in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The Daily Gazette of Schenectady on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 reported that the iconic Saratoga Springs, N.Y. restaurant, whose owners include “Entourage” actors Kevin Connolly and Kevin Dillon, has been put up for sale for an asking price of $1.85 million. (AP Photo/Jim McKnight, File)
  • FILE - In this Aug. 9, 2003 file photo, an unidentified person look as the menu of Siro's restaurant in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The Daily Gazette of Schenectady on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 reported that the iconic Saratoga Springs, N.Y. restaurant, whose owners include “Entourage” actors Kevin Connolly and Kevin Dillon, has been put up for sale for an asking price of $1.85 million. (AP Photo/Jim McKnight, File)

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii — Herb Weatherwax cruises the open-air grounds of the visitors center at Pearl Harbor on a motorized scooter dubbed “Herb’s Hot Rod.” When a woman notices his blue and white cap embroidered with the words “Pearl Harbor Survivor,” he coaxes her over.

Her family surrounds his scooter to pose for a snapshot and shake his hand.

The 96-year-old charms visitors in a similar fashion each of the three days a week he volunteers at a memorial for the USS Arizona, a battleship that sank in the 1941 Japanese attack.

People like hearing stories directly from the survivors, Weatherwax says. And he enjoys meeting people from around the globe. He joked he wants his photograph “in every home in the world.”

“This is my reason to continue to keep going,” he says. “Otherwise, it’s time for me to say goodbye.”

Weatherwax was a 24-year-old Army private living in Honolulu when he heard loud explosions the morning of Dec. 7, 1941. He saw the USS Arizona enveloped in flames and the USS Oklahoma turned on its side as he headed to his post.

Pam Johnson, a sixth grade teacher in a rural community outside Honolulu, said meeting Weatherwax transformed her students. She had been struggling to get the 12-year-olds from Hauula Elementary School interested in research. After meeting Weatherwax, several students suddenly told her they wanted to look up Pearl Harbor. Weatherwax ignited in them a desire to learn, she said.

“That’s a huge connection,” she says. Her students wouldn’t have developed this interest just by walking through the exhibition halls at the visitors’ center or even the memorial for the Arizona, Johnson says.

“This is the best classroom so far this year,” she says.

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