Arkansas’ last known Pearl Harbor survivor passes away

John Lovett
Harold Mainer, seen in December 2019 at a Pearl Harbor Survivors event in Little Rock, was the last known Pearl Harbor survivor in Arkansas. He died Sunday two days shy of his 99th birthday.

O. Harold Mainer of Fort Smith, the last known Pearl Harbor survivor in Arkansas, passed away Sunday. He was two days shy of being 99.

He was also the last survivor of the family’s four children, which included a brother, Youeal Mainer; and two sisters, Tennie Brown and Catherine Pressley.

Mainer’s funeral service was at 10 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 20, at Brotherton Brothers Funeral Home Chapel in Charleston.

In December 2019, the Paris (Arkansas) native was thought to be that last of two known Pearl Harbor survivors in the state. The other at the time was in the West Memphis area, according to Camille Smith at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum. Smith was not reachable Wednesday. The museum opens Friday.

The Associated Press reported this week that Floyd Welch, who was credited with saving lives during the battle of Pearl Harbor, died in Connecticut. Welch was 99 and said to be “one of the last Pearl Harbor survivors.”

Mainer has been featured in several Times Record stories over the past decade, including one from 2016 where he recounted his experiences on Dec. 7, 1941, aboard the USS Helena in Pearl Harbor.

Tracy Engel of the River Valley Food Bank knew Mainer well after growing to know him through her work with another local organization at the Charleston Senior Center.

“He always remembered that day like it was yesterday,” Engel said of Mainer’s Pearl Harbor experience.

Engel recalled how although Mainer was a tough west Arkansan, he also showed a softer side with his sewing of quilt tops to raise money for charity. His obituary also noted the old sailor would sew pillows and aprons for people.

Mainer was born in Paris on Aug. 22, 1921. His father, Clarence, was a coal miner. After working with the Civilian Conservation Corps Camp in Cass for two years, Mainer joined the U.S. Navy on Oct. 20, 1940. From a young age, according to his obituary, Mainer helped raise his siblings when his mother, Ruby (Core) contracted tuberculosis.

Mainer received an honorable discharge from the Navy on Jan. 17, 1947. After the war, he worked as a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, retiring in 1983 after 32 years of service.

He is survived by a son, Mark Mainer (Becky) of Fort Smith; two daughters, Gayla Holloway (Larry) of Archer City, Texas, and Sandra Dobson (Lee) of Van Buren; four grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

The family expressed its gratitude and thanks to the staff at Methodist Village Assisted Living and Heart of Hospice for their loving care of Harold Mainer in his final days.