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Walter Pasiak, Pennsylvania county's last Pearl Harbor attack survivor, dies at 98

By SARAH HOFIUS HALL | The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa. | Published: January 25, 2021

SCRANTON, Pa. (Tribue News Service) — Walter Pasiak lived history.

As a 19-year-old Army private, he grabbed the only available weapon — a rifle — as he tried to defend the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor.

Three years later, in New Guinea, he helped secure a Japanese airfield, fighting at Hollandia on the north coast of the island and earning the Bronze Star.

As the last known survivor of Pearl Harbor residing in Lackawanna County, Pasiak taught younger generations about service and sacrifice.

He died Sunday as a war hero, loving uncle and connection to the past.

The 98-year-old South Scranton resident remained independent, driving and living on his own until November, when he tested positive for COVID-19. Other health issues arose during his recovery, and hopes of his return home diminished.

"They call his generation the greatest generation, and I think it was," his niece, Diane Sica, said Sunday. "He was wonderful. I considered him a second father."

Sica remembers family events with her uncle and his wife, Patricia, who he met in Japan and was married to for 50 years before she died in 2007. He always had a joke to share and love to give.

"We expected this to happen, but you just can't get a grasp on it," Sica said. "You just don't believe it actually happened. ... I can't share enough good things about him."

Pasiak served out the rest of WWII in the Pacific theater, also earning a Purple Heart. He went on to serve in Korea, receiving the Silver Star for gallantry in action, and later served in a military advisory role in Vietnam. When he returned to Scranton after his 22-year Army career, he worked for Goodwill Industries.

In 2017, Pasiak led the Pledge of Allegiance as the 9/11 Memorial Committee of Lackawanna County unveiled a plaque at the county courthouse. The plaque honors the 109 county residents stationed at Pearl Harbor during the attacks, including Pasiak.

Any local events to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the attacks this year will be absent of survivors from Lackawanna County.

"Their service is something that should never be forgotten," said Charles Spano, chairman of the memorial committee. "That generation is passing, and their heritage and legacy is something we have to remember, especially in these times in America."

shofius@timesshamrock.com

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