In Memoriam: Rae V. Anderson Jr.


Rae Anderson on the bridge of the USS Newport, on which he served as the executive officer during the Korean War. – Courtesy photo

Rae Anderson on the bridge of the USS Newport, on which he served as the executive officer during the Korean War. – Courtesy photo


May 30, 1923 – Sept. 9, 2016

“They broke the mold after they made Rae!”

“What an inspiration!”

Another of the “Greatest Generation” has left us. Rae V. Anderson, 51-year resident of Sierra Madre, passed away Sept. 9.

World War II Submariner and Korean War Veteran, member and past president of the Search & Rescue Team, and daily hiker of the Mt. Wilson Trail for many years, Anderson was a naturalist of the finest kind with an encyclopedic knowledge of birds, plants, trees, and flora and fauna of every description.

Born May 30, 1923, Anderson was a resident of Alhambra and Southern California all his life, except for stretches in the Navy, where he served his country with pride and excellence.

Anderson joined the Navy in 1942 at a very young age of 19 and served on a submarine in the Pacific as a radio-sonar-radar operator and technician. He was part of the commission crew of the SS-402 Sea Fox Balao-class submarine.

Anderson served “duration plus six months,” exiting active duty in 1946 and then went into the Reserves. Anderson was on Midway Island when the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan.

Commissioned as a Reserves officer in the Peacetime Navy, Anderson was sent back to Japan where he worked with and made friends with the Japanese officers who made up what was called the Japanese Maritime Defense Force after the war, training them on Patrol Frigates, notably, the USS Newport.

Anderson frequently commented that these Japanese officers, the finest surviving officers following WW2, had forgotten more about seamanship than he ever knew!

Anderson was part of the shore support team in the shelling of the Incheon invasion and had his share of Korean Service medals. Anderson loved the Navy, but not so much his time in the Korean conflict.

Anderson attended Pasadena Junior College (now PCC), then went on to graduate from UC Berkeley with a bachelor’s in business. He was a long-time employee of Pacific Telephone, seeking employment with a company that would afford him the ability to take care of his family.

As a child growing up during the Depression, that stability was something he greatly valued for his family. He retired from Pacific Telephone at age 63 and devoted himself to his real love, pursuit of knowledge in natural history and the natural sciences.

Anderson married Geraldine Mary Griest in October 1942 – just before he entered the Navy. They were blessed with four children: Kenneth Rae, Eric Van, and twins Kurt Scott and Heidi Lucille. Kurt laughingly stressed that he was by far the senior twin, being 13 minutes older than Heidi! Rae and Gerry were the proud grandparents of 10 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren. Gerry passed away just two months short of their 60th wedding anniversary.

Anderson’s home, hidden away in the Sierra Madre Canyon, is one of those lovely places where it’s just plain peaceful to be. As part of the group celebrating Anderson’s 93rd birthday, I had occasion to sit out on his back deck with many of his friends and admire the trees and Anderon’s Koi pond. Ah, the Koi pond … very deep, straight down with an overhang – designed to defeat the miserable raccoons and herons, eventually became a sushi platter for our bears. Over the years, Anderson spent a fortune on Koi and, at this moment, his least two favorites are still swimming happily and awaiting their next helping of TetraPond Koi Growth Food!

A past president and member, of the Sierra Madre Search & Rescue Team, Anderson organized and took part in searches, ran and organized base camps, and was heavily involved in the bloodhound training, as one of the family dogs, Jinx, was a bloodhound and the Anderson sons quickly became the “bait” in training these search dogs.

“You guys go up the trail there and hide!” The process would repeat, with the tracking distances increasing a few feet at a time, until the hounds became proficient at finding the right scent and tracking the victim for miles.

At age 75, Anderson met Anne Garbarine and they became fast friends and fellow trail hikers, undertaking a backpack trip into the Sierras and, along with a group of ladies, who called themselves the Rae-ettes, went to Africa in 2008, visiting Uganda to see the gorillas. This arduous two-day adventure to be close to gorilla families was a huge thing for Anderson and he frequently spoke of the gorillas, even having them as his screen saver. Two of his Rae-ettes took him to Catalina for his 92nd birthday, to show him the place he hadn’t seen since the 1940s.

Anderson was one of those people who would bend over backward to help a friend and, as a result, had many friends who loved him dearly. He was a frequent dog-sitter and did his best to corrupt the best-behaved dogs. He was an aviculturist, involved particularly with the spectacularly beautiful Lady Gouldian Finch, and was renowned for his success in keeping and breeding them.

Anderson’s picture is proudly displayed on our own Veteran’s Memorial Wall in Sierra Madre Memorial Park. A memorial will be held at Ascension Church in Sierra Madre at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29.

September 27, 2016

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