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Farewell to a veteran

Pearl Harbor survivor Sinnott died months after story about high cost of long-term care

Jim Sinnott, a Pearl Harbor survivor and World War II veteran, died Nov. 9.  (Jesse Tinsley)
Jim Sinnott, a Pearl Harbor survivor and World War II veteran, died Nov. 9. (Jesse Tinsley)

When the nation commemorated Pearl Harbor Day last month, there was one less eyewitness to tell the tale of the surprise attack that awoke a sleeping giant on Dec. 7, 1941.

Pearl Harbor survivor Jim Sinnott died Nov. 9, surrounded by his loved ones at the Spokane Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He was 87.

Sinnott, who died of Parkinson’s disease, was the focus of a Spokesman-Review report in the spring about the high cost of long-term care for the elderly and disabled.

The $7,000-a-month bill for his stay at the Spokane Veterans Home threatened the savings he and his wife, Millie, had put away over the years.

After the article appeared, many readers called and wrote the newspaper asking why, as a nation, we could not do better – particularly for a venerated World War II veteran.

Sinnott was born on Nov. 6, 1923.

He joined the Navy in 1940 and was stationed at Ford Island Naval Air Station that Sunday 69 years ago when he was awakened by the sound of Japanese warplanes.

“They flew over the top of me, so low I could see the faces of the pilots,” he told a reporter in 2009.

The radioman spent much of the rest of the day collecting the wounded and transporting them to hospitals. He served the remainder of the war in the South Pacific.

After the war, he became an air traffic controller in Everett, where he met Millie, the waitress who was to become the love of his life. In 1956, they moved to Spokane, where they raised three children.

Sinnott founded the Northwest Chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association and served as its president for a time. He recalled that the first meeting of the group around 1960 drew 82 survivors, from as far away as Montana.

Now about a dozen members remain.

As it turned out, the Sinnotts were spared the devastating economic burden of long-term care, according to their son Larry.

Soon after the newspaper article appeared on April 13, Larry Sinnott said, his father’s health took a turn for the worse and he was admitted into VA hospice care.

On Nov. 6, Sinnott’s family surprised him with a birthday party at the medical center.

“There was a big smile on his face,” his son said.

Sinnott died less than a week later. A memorial service at Fairmount Park Sunset Chapel was attended by family and friends, including the handful of Pearl Harbor survivors who were able to come.

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