Chicago area survivor of Pearl Harbor attack laid to rest in Norridge

NORRIDGE, Ill. (WLS) -- WWII veteran Everett "Jim" Schlegel was one of the last known Pearl Harbor survivors from Chicago. He was remembered today for his service and his fun-loving personality.

"It's a very sad day for us, but we're we're so honored and blessed to have been a part of his wonderful life," said Beverly Capiga, Schlegel's daughter. "He just enjoyed everything that came his way; couldn't stop living really."

SEE ALSO | Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day: A look back at December 7, 1941

After a memorial service at Cumberland Chapels in Norridge, Schlegel was laid to rest at Irving Park Cemetery.

He's survived by his son, Bill Schlegel, and daughter, Beverly Capiga, along with six grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.

"He really tried to make people smile. He never was negative, he was always a positive person," his son said. "To have him as my father is the greatest."

Schlegel died Dec. 31, 2021 on New Year's Eve, which seemed appropriate, according his daughter.

"He picked the most appropriate day because, at midnight we all heard fireworks, and I'm sure it was everyone up there welcoming him home finally," she said.

A plaque honoring his military service was placed near his casket today. At the cemetery, a military color quart saluted, played "Taps."

"When he got drafted, he had 3 choices, and he picked Hawaii, not knowing the war was going to find him," Capiga said.

The day Pearl Harbor was attacked, Schlegel was in the U.S. Army caring for mules and making sure fellow soldiers had the supplies they needed. They were based in the hills near the harbor. Schlegel shared his story on the attack's 75th anniversary.

"Nobody knew what was going on. It was almost eight hours before we knew that we were under attack," the solider recalled in 2016.

Not only did Schlegel witness war, he witnessed baseball history at Wrigley Field. His children said he was a die-hard, life-long Cubs fan who bled Cubbie blue.

"He talked about the Cubs 365 days a year. It wasn't just from April through September. It was all the time," Bill said.

The first time Schlegel watched the Cubs in a World Series was in 1945. His son said he went to Games 6 and 7.

"He's still got his ticket stubs from the 1945 game. Anyone can say they were there, He's the guy who's got the proof," his son said.

When 2016 rolled around, Schlegel's family set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to buy World Series tickets. Instead, Marcus Lemonis gave him and his son some of the best tickets in the stadium. A photo of that day shows father-son beaming with smiles across their faces.

"The Cubs and the World Series together, with him by my side was just a dream come true because we talked about it forever," his son said.

The Cubs game is a special memory as they honored the veteran. At the gravesite, Schlegel's son received the U.S. flag that draped the casket - a symbol of our country, a lifetime, his military service.

"It's important for all of us to realize that we're all in this together," Bill Schlegel said, "and we need to come together as a country, to be united."
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