Pearl Harbor survivor George Bland passes away

George Bland (seated) (PHOTO: Virginia War Memorial)

George Bland (seated) (PHOTO: Virginia War Memorial)

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – George Bland, 92, passed away in his sleep Sunday, his family said.  He was a lot of things in life. He was a husband, a father, a grandfather and a member of the National Letter Carriers Association. But one of the most defining moments in Bland’s 92-year life came early on.

Born in Richmond, the oldest of seven children, Bland moved to Wilmington, N.C. with his family during the Great Depression. Upon graduating from Williston High School in June 1940, Bland joined the Navy where he served on the USS West Virginia.

One year later he would survive the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“Dad was 19 years old when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and spoke many times of that day,” Blands daughter-in-law Irene recalled.”It started as a beautiful Hawaiian Sunday morning. When the attack occurred, he saw men jumping into the water into hot oil which caught fire. Dad tried every effort to help them as the ship was sinking. Someone from the ship next to the USS West Virginia where Dad was standing threw a line down to help. [The line] didn’t seem to reach him, but he jumped and caught it. He always said that he didn’t know from where the line came, but he believed it was God’s plan for him to be there at that time. His faith from that time compelled him to devote time to church and he and his late wife Ethel were always active.”

Bland was injured in the attack that claimed 130 lives on his ship.

“He went to work in Detroit at the Dodge plant after the war and then returned to Richmond where he started his career as a postal employee,” Irene said. “He married his wife, a city school teacher, the late Ethel (Price) and lived in the Byrd Park area and later moved to Henrico County.”

Later, Bland came to reside at Sitter and Barfoot Veterans Care Center in Richmond and was a frequent visitor to the Virginia War Memorial during its annual Pearl Harbor Day Ceremony.

“Dad was a letter carrier until he retired and as a tall man, enjoyed wearing fine clothes and always looking dapper. His mind was strong and he liked to shop, travel and visit fine restaurants,” Irene said. “To his last breath and he loved his family and always enjoyed giving speeches about his experiences to schools, children and adult organizations with pictures and videos.”

He is survived by his son, Frank Bland (Irene); two grandsons, Michael and Quincy Bland; three sisters; Evelyn B. Brown, Harriet B. Furman(Richard) and Shirley B. Stokes(Arthur); one brother, Lewis Bland; a host of nieces, nephews and cousins; and other relatives and friends.

The Blands will receive friends Saturday 10 a.m. at Sixth Baptist Church, 400 So. Addison Street followed by the funeral at 11 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, the Blands said contributions can be made to the Virginia War Memorial, 621 S. Belvidere Street, Richmond, Virginia, 23220 and Sitter and Barfoot Veterans Care Center, Attn: Tracy Morrison, 1601 Broad Rock Blvd., Richmond, Virginia 23224.

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