91-year-old vet departs on Honor Flight, plans marriage
May 20, 2018, 10:23 AM | Updated: May 21, 2018, 10:47 am
SANDY, Utah — Keith Pace said he wasn’t expecting anything special Friday afternoon at his retirement home.
He was ultimately surprised when the residents and operators of Solstice Senior Living made the 91 year old a guest of honor at a ceremony and dinner that paid tribute to his service during World War II.
“It’s pretty neat!” Pace said. “I’m very happy they would do this for me. I had no idea.”
In 1944, Pace graduated high school and joined the Navy, which took him to Camp Parks outside of San Francisco.
In July 1945, he learned he and others were being assigned to sea duty aboard the U.S.S. Indianapolis.
“As Keith neared the gangplank, an officer announced that a sufficient number of sailors were on-board and no further personnel would be needed,” said Monique Mackay, the executive director of Solstice Senior Living, as she read a prepared history of Pace’s life to the group.
The timing proved to be fateful for Pace. Weeks later, a Japanese torpedo sank the Indianapolis. Nearly 900 died and dozens were believed to have been devoured by sharks.
“I wanted to get on that boat,” Pace said through moist eyes. “I had a brother on the U.S.S. Wilson. He rode that ship for 4 years before he was discharged. I guess I just wanted to follow his footsteps.”
Pace boarded an Honor Flight Saturday morning from Salt Lake City to Washington, D.C. along with other veterans.
The Utah Honor Flight program takes veterans to see their respective war memorials in the nation’s capital.
“It’s been exciting to see him get some recognition and all the veterans,” son Steve Pace said. “It’s not about anyone individual or person—they all deserve the recognition.”
After the war, Pace and his wife Frankie raised five children and ultimately retired in Sandy.
Frankie Pace passed away on August 12, 2017.
Keith Pace was particularly pleased that one guest made it to Friday’s ceremony.
Friends said Jo-An Eames had been recovering after suffering a stroke and heart attack, and arrived at Solstice just in time.
The two are planning to be married in mid-June.
“It’s kind of fast, I guess,” Pace had. “She had a bad fall since I met her. It’s going to be a long time getting over it, but that doesn’t matter, that doesn’t make any difference. I still love her.”