Lauren Bruner, a Pearl Harbor attack survivor who made multiple trips to Tucson and was honored before the Arizona Wildcats' 2016 game against Hawaii at Arizona Stadium, has died. He was 98.
We are deeply saddened to share the news that Pearl Harbor Survivor Lauren Bruner has passed away. Lauren was one of the last remaining survivors of the USS Arizona. There are now only three left: Don Stratton, Lou Conter & Ken Potts. #PearlHarbor #WeRemember pic.twitter.com/YiIBkj1YVC— PearlHarborNPS (@PearlHarborNPS) September 11, 2019
Bruner was one of just four surviving Pearl Harbor attack survivors when he visited Tucson three years ago for the football game. Bruner and his friend, Ed McGrath, flew from their Southern California homes to Tucson as guests of the UA athletic department.
“We met with airmen at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base … and Lauren was treated like royalty,” McGrath told the Star three years ago. "He tried to tell them his story, but he has trouble talking about it. Sometimes he just cries.”
Bruner, 21, was a Fire Controlman 3rd Class assigned to the USS Arizona, docked at Pearl Harbor on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941. Bruner was at his battle station, about 70 feet above the deck of the USS Arizona that Sunday morning when a Japanese warplane dropped a bomb that would kill 1,177 of his shipmates. The man who hoped to go to college and be a cheerleader — “we called it a ‘yell leader’ then,” he said — was one of the final two men rescued from the ship.
His hands and arms were charred. He was shot twice in the leg. He spent seven months in hospitals; about 70 percent of his body was burned.
Bruner not only survived, seven months later he accepted assignment to another battleship and fought in eight major battles in the Pacific theater.
After World War II, Bruner worked in the refrigeration business, and later was part of a Southern California carpentry union.
As a retiree, Bruner founded My Dream Gift to America — a charity that helped him "complete one of my last dreams, which is to honor my fellow crew members of the USS Arizona whose spirits now rest as a part of the USS Arizona Memorial," he wrote. The charity aimed to allow each Pearl Harbor visitor to touch the name of any crew member from a kiosk and view a detailed biography. Bruner visited Tucson in 2013 and 2015, then was honored on the field before the 2016 football game.
During his time in Tucson for the UA-Hawaii game, Bruner spoke to the UA's football and men's basketball teams.
The following day, Bruner took center stage before the Wildcats' 47-28 win over the Rainbow Warriors. He met with former athletic director Greg Byrne, former UA president Ann Weaver Hart and late U.S. Sen. John McCain before kickoff.
Bruner will be buried within the wreckage of the USS Arizona.