The young man who served his country on its day of infamy 64 years ago is still serving it today at age 88. The young sailor who cracked jokes to ease the fear and pain of wounded comrades that morning is still using humor to ease the fear and pain of surgical patients – many of them aging veterans just like him. “Bill has this incredible talent to make nervous, scared patients take a deep breath and relax,” says Connie Bonifede, who arrives at the hospital at 2 a.m. to ready the operating rooms and, with Bill’s help, get the patients prepped. “I’ll walk in and Bill’s already there, telling the patients a joke about his own surgeries. Before you know it, he’s got everybody laughing. He’s given a lot to his country, and he’s still giving.” Often, the patient he’s visiting is a military vet, and their easy conversation will turn to that day at Pearl Harbor. Bill remembers lying in his bunk, half-asleep, trying to figure out what that noise was outside. “I got up and looked out the porthole, right into a Japanese torpedo plane heading toward us,” Bill says. “I rushed to my battle station as we began to maneuver to get out of the harbor. We knew they would want to sink as many ships in the harbor as they could to block others from getting out to sea. “We went looking for the Japanese fleet because we knew these planes weren’t fueling on land. But it was a big ocean out there. We never found them and returned to Pearl a few days later.” He also remembers returning to the carnage and the long list of buddies serving on other ships, like the USS Arizona, who didn’t make it. Bill’s told the story of Pearl to hundreds of schoolchildren over the years to honor the memory of the men who died there. And he promises that the members of the most exclusive club in America will keep telling it until the last man turns out the lights. Dennis McCarthy’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Dennis McCarthy, (818) 713-3749 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “He’s given a lot to his country – and he’s still giving.” – Connie Bonifede Bill Aupperlee belongs to an exclusive club – one you can’t buy your way into, one in which pedigree doesn’t matter. No, the only way you get into this group is to have been where Bill and the other members were on Dec. 7, 1941 – on a battleship or destroyer in a place called Pearl Harbor. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals More than 3,000 brave men perished there 64 years ago today. Our day of infamy. I called Bill at his North Hollywood home on Tuesday to see what he and other members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association had planned for today. Locally, the active members of his club have dwindled from more than 100 to fewer than a dozen. And the sad truth is that before we know it, they will all be gone. Nationally, the number of Pearl Harbor survivors has dwindled to 5,800, including 1,200 living in California, said Arthur Herriford, district director of the local association, which has nothing formal planned today. Bill said he plans to spend Pearl Harbor Day as he does every other weekday. He’s up at 1 a.m., and after a quick shower heads over to Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank to report for duty.