Longtime Lakewood resident and WWII veteran buried in Westminster – Orange County Register
That was the message on a standing bouquet of red and white daisies and roses.
Under the warm glow of sunlight filtered through stained glass, surrounded by ornate bouquets, the body of World War II veteran Jack Orr lay in a coffin, half open for his loved ones to say a final goodbye – for the moment.
“We hope his eternal life will continue in a place where Jesus prepared him,” said Marion Park, pastor of Grace First Presbyterian Church, Long Beach.
Orr, a longtime Lakewood resident, celebrated its 100th birthday last year in Long Beach. The former pilot died on February 28, nine months after becoming a centenarian. His death further reduced the number of remaining American survivors of World War II, with only about 300,000 of the estimated 16 million who served still alive.
Orr was laid to rest on Thursday afternoon March 10 at Westminster Memorial Park and Mortuary, where he was buried next to his wife of 64 years, Margaret Orr, who died in 2009.
In the small triangular chapel of Westminster Mortuary, friends and family remembered Orr’s long and full life.
“To me, Dad, you were good at everything,” said Diane West, one of his daughters.
During the service, his body was laid in a coffin, half-covered with an American flag. It was a small, intimate ceremony, with 13 of his friends and family filling the first wooden pews in the chapel.
During her eulogy, Orr’s other daughter, Dorothy Orr, said she followed in her footsteps and became a pilot. She remembers that when she was a child, her father tried to teach her to fly an airplane. She had no problem holding the steering wheel, she said, but her legs were too short to reach the pedals. So, she says, her father put blocks on her feet to help her fly.
“Every time I’m up there,” she said, “I remember the best teacher I ever had.”
Orr was born May 25, 1921, in Buffalo, New York, and grew up on a farm in Attica, a town about 35 miles to the east. He joined the US Army Air Corps in 1942 and flew combat aircraft across the country. When the war ended, he and his wife lived in Texas for a time before moving to New York and then Modesto.
Eventually the couple moved to Los Angeles County, settling in a house in Lakewood in 1953 – a year before that city was incorporated.
Orr worked for years at McDonnell Douglas in Long Beach, helping build airplanes and working on Rockwell International’s space shuttle programs as an engineer. He retired in the early 1990s, but also worked as an amateur radio operator, even volunteering on the Queen Mary.
Thursday’s memorial service was led by Park, Orr’s pastor at Grace First Presbyterian Church. Orr, a devout Christian, used to say a prayer every time he entered an airplane cockpit, Park said, adding that the veteran wanted her to read John 3:16 at her memorial service. She did it.
“Glory to God that God heard Jack’s prayers,” Park said, “and protected him through all those dangerous flights.”
Park also remembered Orr’s wife and the love they shared. The couple only dated for five months, Park said, before getting married in Dallas. When Orr was discharged from the army, they returned to his home country, but did not stay there long as the winters were far too cold for Margaret Orr.
“It didn’t take long,” Park said, “that they knew they were made for each other.”
After the service, Orr’s body was taken to be buried next to his wife. His grandson, Eric Kauffman, played trumpet taps as two American servicemen folded his flag and presented it to West.
Kauffman, also a pilot, said Orr’s legacy lives on through all of his friends and family. Those who know and remember him, he said during the service, will take his stories, memories and lessons learned and pass them on to others.
Of these stories he said, “Keep them with you as long as you can.”