Birthday Salute: USS Arizona Survivor Louis Conter Turns 99

World War II Veteran And USS Arizona Survivor Lou Conter

From Bob N.: If you were not able to make the drive-by celebration for Mr. Lou Conter, I only hope you read the article in the Union paper. Just pulling up at Nevada Union high school to queue up for the tour by his house, was overwhelming. I had no idea the city had this many vehicles. The Police, Fire and Sheriff trucks, not to leave out the old cars of the Roamin Angles was incredible. Lou Conter was not just a great American, he is truly an American hero.

Surely I’m not alone to say that driving along with a police siren blaring behind me, well it brings back fond and not-so-fond memories.”

Excerpt from The Union article by Elias Funez 

Grass Valley’s World War II hero and USS Arizona survivor, retired Lt. Cmdr. Lou A. Conter’s 99th birthday was celebrated Saturday with a drive-by salute for his birthday.

 “I didn’t know anything about it, my God,” Conter said following the drive-by celebration. “I was just sitting there watching TV, getting ready for going to Jack and Linda’s for a barbecue this afternoon, just relaxing. I walked out here, and what the hell is going on?”

Representatives from nearly every local fire and law enforcement agency, including State Parks and the Forest Service, made their way in front of Conter’s home in Grass Valley’s Eskaton Village. Local Boy Scout troops and the Roamin Angels Car Club also cruised by while Conter’s family joined him on the sidewalk to watch and wave at the procession of cars. Nevada County Supervisor Ed Scofield presented a plaque memorializing the occasion.

“Ken Potts is our only other survivor from the Arizona,” Conter said. “I talked to him a couple of weeks ago. He’s in Utah, He and his wife bought that house in ’47 when they got out of the service. And they’re still living there. He was 99 on April 15. He’s five months older than I am,” Conter said of Potts. “There’s just the two of us left.”

Conter was on board the USS Arizona when a Japanese armor-piercing bomb hit 1 million pounds of gunpowder stored in the hull of the ship on Dec. 7, 1941. He helped rescue crewmen following the explosion and dove into the wreckage to recover bodies in the days after. A total of 1,177 sailors died as a result of the bombing of the USS Arizona.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Conter became a VP-11 Black Cat pilot and was responsible for helping rescue over 200 Australian Coastwatchers stranded in Northern New Guinea.

Conter now spends much of his time at his home in Eskaton Village with friends and family always close by.

 “I don’t know how the CHP, and the sheriff’s, and the fire engines, everybody got all together to combine here,” Conter said. “I don’t know who organized it, but it was great.”

Conter would later find out that his daughter Louann Daley, and California Highway Patrol Commander George Steffenson, played a big hand in coordinating the efforts.

 “I didn’t figure I’d have a 99th birthday like this,” Conter said.

The Union Excerpt: September 14, 2020

Drive-by birthday salute: World War II veteran and USS Arizona survivor Louis Conter turns 99 (VIDEO/PHOTO GALLERY)