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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Pete Bang, who lost two brothers in WWII and was sent home akin to ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ dies at 91

If you spent time with Pete Bang you might have learned he was a “knuckle-busting” mechanic, that he kept his home and yard pristine, that he owned his own auto shop and that there was no place he’d rather live than Spokane Valley. You might have picked up on his proud Norwegian heritage, especially if there was mention of the Norwegian-style log house he built.

It’s possible you may have discovered he was a World War II veteran, but he may not have shared much about his role working on supply lines in India or mentioned that he was sent home akin to “Saving Private Ryan” after two brothers died in the war effort three weeks apart in March 1945. Or that his younger sister died in a freak accident a few months later.

You probably would get no hints about his Lutheran religion or his politics. He barely touched on those topics with his closest friend, Ray Arnot, with whom he went to lunch every Friday for more than 60 years.

Bang, 91, died Sept. 11 from pneumonia. He was buried Tuesday at the Washington State Veterans Cemetery in Medical Lake.

He was the last surviving child of Sarah and Martin Bang, a large, close family that sent five children to World War II:

Peter was an Army private who served in India and Burma driving trucks to supply troops fighting the Japanese in China.

Sidnie Bang, an Army corporal in a tanker battalion who was wounded in action three times, was killed on the front lines in Luxembourg.

Melvin Bang, an Army corporal who filed saws for troops building roads in the Philippines, died from disease.

Irene Bang was a Navy radio operator in California.

John Bang served in the Navy on the USS Carter Hall in the South Pacific and also was sent home after his brothers died.

Family members said it was only in later years that Bang fully realized the work he did in World War II was not only important, but appreciated.

“He was proud of his military service and his family’s military service,” said his daughter, Christie Strozyk.

After his children were grown, he helped organize Army reunions. He took an Honor Flight in 2010 to see the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

He was touched by the experience and the schoolchildren who wrote him letters thanking him for his service.

“What a wonderful send-off and welcome home Spokane gave us,” Bang wrote in a letter to The Spokesman-Review. “I appreciate each of you.”

Bang and Arnot began their Friday lunch tradition when they worked at McCollum Motors. They last had lunch together three weeks ago at the Jack in the Box restaurant at Broadway Avenue and Sullivan Road.

Bang and Arnot are “self-effacing, easygoing guys who like to watch the world and kid around,” a Spokesman-Review profile on the two friends said in 2004.

There was enough to talk about without getting into politics.

“We talked about things we had done, things we wanted to do, things we planned to do and things we wish we had done – that sort of stuff,” Arnot said. “When we were younger, it was ‘What are we going to do next weekend?’ ”

Bang left McCollum Motors after he bought a Conoco station at Bowdish Road and Sprague Avenue, Arnot said. He later operated Bang Auto Clinic at Park Road and Spear Avenue. Arnot also left McCollum to run his own auto repair shop, and they shared some customers.

“He’d get one guy he got tired of, and he’d send them off to me,” Arnot said.

Bang’s longtime companion, Dee Taylor, and her great-grandson, Cadan Allen, were the last people with Bang before he died at Valley Hospital. Bang taught Cadan woodworking skills and how to play baseball. In later years, Cadan helped Bang maintain his yard.

“My great-grandson was his special, special buddy,” Taylor said. “He taught Cadan how to drive a riding lawnmower when he was 4 years old.”

Bang also is survived by two other children, Roger Bang and Tami Chiesa, and Taylor’s children LeRoy Enger and Rhonda Johnson.

About 15 years ago, Bang built a shadow box to honor Sidnie and Melvin. It includes one of their Purple Hearts and hangs in a bedroom at his home, along with a plaque honoring the two fallen brothers that once hung in Bethany Lutheran Church.

“I lost two brothers and a sister at the same time,” Peter said in an interview earlier this year. “I was just lucky to get home.”