Remembering WWII veteran Robert Coles

Remembering Pearl Harbor vet Robert Coles WCSH

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- NEWS CENTER lost a friend today as word came to us that World War II veteran Robert Coles passed away early this afternoon. He would have turned 94 years old next month.

In December 2016, NEWS CENTER had the honor of following along to document Mr. Coles' journey as he returned to Pearl Harbor for the first time since the attacks 75 years ago.

VIDEO: Robert Coles prepares for Pearl Harbor trip

Coles prepares for trip WLBZ

After learning of Mr. Coles' story, NEWS CENTER viewers helped fund his return to Pearl Harbor at the age of 92 on the 75th anniversary of the attack on the US naval base there.

On the day his trip started, a grand caravan of local law enforcement led the procession from his home all the way to the Trenton Airport. "God bless you," Coles said to the people who greeted him at the front doors after arrival.

"I wasn't expecting anything like this. This is overwhelming," he said. "But in a nice way, it's heartwarming. I look around me and I see fellow Americans."

VIDEO: Mr. Coles arrives in Hawaii

Coles arrives in Hawaii WCSH

Emotions ran strong during the 75th Anniversary ceremony that so many had waited years to attend. Mr. Coles was felt it too. "Very moving very humbling and quite nostalgic," said Robert Coles. "The Admirals, the people that were there were saying same things that I was thinking, so it spanned the generations."

The event also gave the Navy veteran a chance to say goodbye to the place that shaped his life so many decades ago.

"We got to become united. Oh, we might have different opinions which is quite all right because that's one of the things that need to be so great. We had people of different opinions living together and working together and being nonjudgmental and harmonious together," Coles said.

Weeks later, Coles received his high school diploma in Machias on his 93rd birthday.

WATCH: 30 minutes special on Robert Coles' "Return to Pearl Harbor Special"

NEWS CENTER caught up with Mr. Coles just a couple weeks ago after he spent eight days in the hospital before being released.

“There's no question about it, that old cliche, there's no place like home,” Coles said. “I'm in pretty good shape … I'm well looked after." Longtime family friend Dennis Boyd said Coles health continued to fail.

PHOTOS: Robert Coles returns to Pearl Harbor

Boyd says there will be a public memorial service, but the date has not yet been set.

Facebook LIVE: Robert Coles motorcade to Trenton Airport

One of the lasting memories of the trip was Coles reflection on how appreciative he was to those who made the trip possible, including the donations from countless Mainers.

"God bless them all," Coles said. "You have been my lifesavers now."

"I've got the love and respect of my fellow Machians, Maine-iacs and that's all I need.”

Below is information regarding a visitation service:

Visitation for Mr. Robert Coles
Friday, Nov. 10, 2017
10 a.m. to noon
Machias Memorial HS Gymnasium
1 Bulldog Way
Machias, ME 04654

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