Prairie Village resident Jesse Dunnagan, one of the lone remaining Pearl Harbor survivors in Johnson County, died Saturday at Select Specialty Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. He was 92.
Dunnagan was the gun director for the broadside guns on the USS California the day Japanese bombers raided Pearl Harbor. When the California was struck, Dunnagan was forced into the harbor, where he dodged flaming pools of oil as he swam toward Ford Island. He was initially reported missing and presumed dead.
To honor Dunnagan’s service, Prairie Village declared Dec. 7, 2011 – the fortieth anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks — “Jesse Dunnagan Day.” Dunnagan also participated in a Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony organized by an SM East student this past December.
Dunnagan, who had four children, moved to Prairie Village in 1990 from Florida to live with his daughter, Joan Hollack.
“He loved his church and reading his scriptures,” she said. “He was the best dad in the world. And my favorite person in the whole wide world. I’m going to miss him so much.”
Hollack said Dunnagan loved going out to eat in the area — especially to Chinese restaurants.
“He loved Joy Wok and China Star,” she remembers, “He’d come home and say, ‘Joan, someone came over an bought my lunch for me today because I was wearing my Pearl Harbor hat.’ And I’d say, ‘It’s because they appreciate what you did.'”
Services will be held at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at 8144 Holmes Road in Kansas City, Mo.