Remembering The Storekeeper
Henry Clay Huffaker was born in 1832 at Beaver Creek in Wayne County. He married Margaret Shearer in 1855 and to their union were born thirteen children, seven boys and six girls. The 8th born was Juliann "Hettie" Huffaker. Hettie married Ulysses Grant Frost in 1889. Their youngest child, Vada, was my grandmother. Hettie's second oldest sister, Laura, married Daniel Rector. Their youngest child, Wendell, married Lela Cooper. After the family moved to Albany, the oldest child, Clay, left home for the U.S. Navy, never to return again. He was aboard the USS Arizona when the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
The first torpedo in the assault on Pearl Harbor hit the USS Raleigh at about 7:55 a.m., Sunday morning. Battleship Row was hit at 7:57 a.m. The USS ARIZONA was moored inboard of the repair ship Vestal when the attack occurred. At 8:10 a.m. a Japanese Type 97 Attack Bomber dropped a bomb that struck the Arizona between the No. 1 and No. 2 turret. This bomb was a converted armor piercing artillery shell that ignited the Arizona's forward magazine. Blazing furiously, the once majestic battleship Arizona violently exploded, sinking to the bottom of the harbor. .
This December 7th will mark 70 years that 1,177 men, including Storekeeper 3rd Class Clay Cooper Rector of Albany, rest at the bottom of the harbor, encased in the Arizona's rusty hull. In the Navy's known history, there has never been a ship that has taken so many of its crew down with her.
This Memorial Day, the Notorious Meddler pauses to remember Clay Cooper Rector, and the others aboard the USS ARIZONA who paid the supreme sacrifice while in service to the United States of America.