Revere, Ma. 12-5-18. Marian Curtis with a picture of her and her late husband taken before the attack on Pearl Harbor. (Owen O'Rourke)

Revere woman’s motto is never forget Pearl Harbor

REVERE — Undaunted, but limited in mobility in her 93rd year, Marian Curtis will skip the annual Pearl Harbor memorial ceremonies in Charlestown Navy Yard Friday.

But she will be surrounded by reminders of Dec. 7, 1941.

The Japanese Imperial Navy launched a surprise aerial attack that Sunday morning on U.S. naval ships and air bases in Hawaii. The raid broke the back of America's battleship fleet and killed 2,300 but failed to hit crucial aircraft carriers.

Curtis' late husband, William Frank Curtis, survived the salvo aboard the battleship USS Nevada.

"He was blown down a hatchway. He woke up and was on deck when the (battleship) Arizona exploded," Marian Curtis said.

William Curtis sustained shrapnel wounds and was later commended by his commanding officer "for his courage, skill and devotion to duty" during the crossfire. Initial reports counted him among the dead.

Transferred from the badly-damaged Nevada to the battlecruiser USS Alaska for service during the war, Curtis and his fellow sailors were in Boston in 1943 when he met his future wife, who was working as a waitress.

"There was no question," she said. "That was it. We were so meant for each other."

The bedroom in her Revere home is a shrine to her husband's World War II service and a testament to the shared mission they shouldered after the war to make sure Pearl Harbor is never forgotten.

A yellowed New York Times front page chronicling the shelling carries a banner headline: "Japan wars on U.S. and Britain." A model of the Nevada sits on a shelf near a twisted, palm-size bolt Curtis took with him from the Nevada. A display box is crowded with medals conferred on Curtis. A painting of the bombardment occupies another corner of the room.

The Pittsburgh native and his wife, from East Boston, married in 1944.

"We had an old Chevy we bought for 10 dollars," she said.

After the war, the couple lived in East Boston and William Curtis joined the Boston Fire Department. Marian helped her husband study for a fireboat master's license. They took on the task of remembering the Pearl Harbor attack anniversary and honoring Curtis' fellow survivors first with the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association and, later, with Pearl Harbor Survivors and Friends Inc.

They laid a wreath during 50th anniversary ceremonies in Boston and distributed more than 2,000 50-year medals honoring lives lost and survivors. The couple visited schools and talked about the war and its significance in American history. Often, the visits revealed a lack of knowledge about Dec. 7, 1941, among the grandchildren of World War II veterans.

"They thought Pearl Harbor was a type of drink," she said.

William Curtis retired from the fire department in the 1980s and died in 1998.

Marian continued faithfully attending Dec. 7 ceremonies in Charlestown aboard the USS Cassin Young, a World War II destroyer-turned-museum.

"I've been there in soaking rain," she said. "The only time I missed a ceremony was when there was a blizzard and they closed down the yard. We were there doing what we had to do."

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