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Veteran remembered for dry humor, community support

Family and friends recount Dan Huston's World War II stories and well-organized jokes on his beloved wife.

March 23, 2012|By Sarah Peters
  • Dan Huston flying in his Vought Kingfisher in World War II.
Dan Huston flying in his Vought Kingfisher in World War… (Daily Pilot )

Dan Huston, a Laguna Beach resident, community advocate and World War II veteran, has died. He was 90.

As an active member of the Freedom Committee of Orange County, a group of veterans from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars, Huston was a frequent and lively speaker at Laguna and Newport-Mesa Unified schools and community events.

He died at Mission Hospital in Laguna Beach on March 15, eight days shy of his 91st birthday and hours before he was scheduled to share his war experiences with students at Corona del Mar high school.

"When he spoke, his whole idea was [to communicate] the cost of freedom," said Jack Hammett, chairman of the Freedom Committee and a former World War II Navy corpsman. "Freedom was not free; it was expensive with the cost of lives."

At Compton Community College, Huston received his civilian pilot training and enlisted in the Naval Air Corps in 1941. At the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas, Huston earned his aviator wings and was assigned to the USS Colorado in the Pacific.

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Huston earned 10 Battle Stars, two Air Medals and played a valuable role in many sea skirmishes, including the 1943 sinking of a Japanese submarine, the I-35.

"I saw the submarine suddenly burst out of the sea like a broaching whale," Huston wrote in an October 1999 issue of Sea Classics magazine. "Yelling a 'Tally Ho,' I immediately dove to drop my depth charges before the submarine could crash dive ... Years later, I learned that I'd helped to sink the 2,198-ton I-35; that it was the Frazier which rammed and sent her to the bottom with no survivors."

Huston maintained a passionate sense of patriotism throughout his life, said daughter Hillary Gorrie.

"If we were ever at a live sporting event and someone was singing the 'Star Spangled Banner,' he would get misty-eyed," she said. "And without fail, if there was a military fly-by, he would cry."

While the former Navy lieutenant's war stories were numerous and circulated widely between family and friends, he may be best remembered for his dry humor and mischievous pranks.

"I believe that on Mom and Dad's very first date, he took her to a college basketball game and before it started, he managed to get a hold of the ball and he hid it," daughter Haven Tieck said with a laugh.

Huston was married to his wife, Mary Lou, for 67 years until her death in December.

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