Honored in Simi Valley: Vet who witnessed history turns 100 years old

By Debra Tash

Yesterday marked the 100th year for Ford Worthington Rice. 

Relatives from across the world came to Simi Valley to celebrate this milestone, the farthest hailing all the way from New Zealand.

A private celebration on Rice’s actual birthday, August 21st, was held at the home of his daughter, Cindy Rice.  She lured her father to the Veteran of Foreign Wars post/museum located in the Simi Valley Town Center telling him they were just going out for lunch.  That’s when he was greeted by well wishers who were there to honor him.

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Wishing Mr. Rice well on the 100th anniversary of his birth

Born in rural Wayne County, New York, Mr. Rice joined the Navy in 1938.  He served on the USS Ellet.  A problem with his leg sent him to a hospital ship anchored in Pearl Harbor, the USS Solace, which was a former passenger liner.  On December 7th 1941, Rice rose early and went up top to the Solace’s after deck.  The USS Arizona was anchored off her port side.  Rice watched as the Arizona’s crew raised her colors.  It was then that a Japanese Zero flew by, banking right towards Hickman Field where it would crash land, completing its kamikaze mission.  The Arizona was struck by the last bomb the Zero dropped.  Her forward compartments exploded when the ammunition magazines were hit.  She sunk, taking over 1000 men with her.  Rice recalled trying to save those who were trapped in air pockets.  They worked 8 hours straight but couldn’t break though the armored plating.

Rice retired from the Navy in 1958 as a Chief Petty officer.

Simi Valley Mayor Bob Huber along with Council Members Mike Judge and Keith Mashburn were at the luncheon. 

Mayor Huber, Council Member Mashburn

Mayor Huber, Council Member Mashburn

Rice’s eldest granddaughter, Ashley said of him, “You know him for his service.  We know him as a grandfather.”  She broke with tears.  Rice has three grandchildren. All were there for this special occasion.

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In white, Granddaughter Ashley

 

A representative from Congressman Steve Knight’s office presented a cowboy hat from the Reagan Library and an American flag that flew over the capital on the 4th of July to Mr. Rice.

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Rice wearing his Ronald Reagan hat

Other officials were not represented but sent letters of congratulations, including former President George W. Bush, whose father, George H. Bush served with Rice in the Pacific theater.  However no other office holders besides, the Mayor and the two Simi Valley Council Members along with Congressman Knight’s representative, were present.

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Hawaii dancers, a reminder of Rice’s time there

Rice’s daughter, Cindy didn’t learn that her father was even at Pearl Harbor that fateful morning until 1981 after a family trip to Hawaii.  And he didn’t start talking about his experience there until ten years ago.  She said of her father: “He’s tired.  Done everything he wanted to do and is ready to go.”  His loved ones are doing everything they can to keep this hero around.

Happy 100th birthday, Mr. Rice and thank you for your service.

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Debra Tash is Editor-in-Chief of Citizensjournal.us, past president for Citizens Alliance for Property Rights, business executive and award-winning author, residing in Somis.

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