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World War II vet Sherwin Callander dies at 102

MADISON – No doubt, anyone who had the privilege of meeting 102-year-old Sherwin Callander will never forget him.

Callander’s razor-sharp wit, snazzy clothing and expert storytelling talent always left an impression when he met anyone. Sadly, Callander died on July 25 at Floyd E ‘Tut’ Fann State Veterans Home in Huntsville.

Callander’s sense of humor was evident on his business cards, which he frequently distributed to new acquaintances. Instead of a business’ name, his cards had the tagline, “Chick Magnet,” for Callander’s self-described exuberant personality.

Born in Canada in 1920, Callander was three years old when his family moved to the United States. During the Great Depression, he returned to Canada to live with his grandparents when he was 12.

In the 1930s, Callander worked in a Civilian Conservation Corps or CCC camp in California when he was 15 years old. “I made $30 a month — $25 went home,” he said.

His persona was unforgettable, as was the valor of his military service during World War II. In humble tones, he never understood why people were impressed by his time in the U.S. Navy . . . stationed in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, when Japanese forces hit with a surprise attack.

On Dec. 6, Sherwin saw the silhouette of a large aircraft carrier, which he and fellow sailors mistook for the U.S.S. Enterprise. They later realized the vessel was a Japanese carrier, headed to Pearl.

Just before the carnage on Dec. 7, Callander witnessed the Japanese fly overhead while he was returning to port after a repair mission on nearby Midway Island. After the Japanese assault, Callander sailed to Pearl Harbor and its devastation of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

His orders involved recovery of casualties. “We helped with cleanup. Bodies were in the water,” he said. “When you lifted a head out of the water, you didn’t know if a body would be attached.”

In later assignments, he served in invasions of North Africa, Sicily/Southern France and D-Day at Normandy.

In 2009, Callander drove his vintage Volvo station wagon from South Florida to Dublin Village in Madison; he moved to live near relatives.

In June 2014, Callander and fellow World War II veterans visited Normandy. “All of the people (in France) respected us so much. That was an awesome trip,” Callander said.

In 2016, the French Consul presented the French Legion of Honor, the country’s highest military award, to Callander. He also has visited the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. with Honor Flight.

Callander was an active member of Madison American Legion, Post 229 and Honoring Veterans Legacies, focused on assisting veterans to return to former battle sites.

Callander had become the unofficial spokesperson for Madison with his visits to local events, school assemblies and commemorative war sites around the world.

Among other relatives, Callander is survived by daughter Betty Little of Harvest and granddaughter Elaine Oakes of Madison.

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