John Cantor – World War II vet a lifelong patriot
By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
For Rancho Bernardan John Cantor, patriotism is a lifelong commitment.
The 95-year-old World War II veteran is actively involved in several military organizations throughout the area. This includes taking a four-hour shift before each Memorial and Veterans day to distribute Buddy Poppies outside grocery stores with fellow members in Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7766, based in Rancho Bernardo.
After growing up in Detroit, Cantor said he enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve in November 1934. A year later he was accepted in the U.S. Navy, where he remained until March 1965.
Cantor, who retired as a chief warrant officer 4, said he wanted to join the Navy following high school because friends chose that branch, but because of the Great Depression so many were signing up due to a lack of jobs that he was placed on a waiting list.
“My career covered the South Atlantic neutrality patrol in the spring of 1941 and the North Atlantic convoy runs in the summer and winter months of 1941 and (during) World War II,” Cantor said. After the war he served at bases around the world.
Cantor said his 30-plus years of military service “formed my character because of the discipline, hard work and separation from family. It made me a better American.”
Because of that, Cantor said he advocates every young adult at age 18 or 19 should be required to serve two years in the military before pursuing other educational and career opportunities. “It will develop their character. Teach them responsibility and discipline,” he said.
For those in the military, Cantor’s advice is “follow all the rules and regulations. Learn the discipline that you will need to maintain in civilian life, study hard and advance in all the ratings.”
Following his naval career, Cantor said he worked for Caltrans for four years and then as exhibit custodian for Superior Court for a decade.
Since retiring, Cantor said he volunteers at Rancho Bernardo Baptist Church — now LifeBridge Church — and taken leadership roles in military associations. These include Fleet Reserve Association for 49 years, including 10 in the Poway branch; Military Order of World Wars Gen. J.P. Holland Chapter for 27 years; American Legion Post 149 in Escondido for 25 years; VFW Post 7766 in Rancho Bernardo for 23 years; and Rancho Bernardo Veterans Memorial Association for 18 years.
In MOWW and VFW he has been chaplain for a dozen years each, a role that requires him to visit members and their widows when ill, attend funerals and console people. Since 1996 he has been the contact for purchasing RB Veterans Memorial plaques in Webb Park. In 2011, he was honored by MOWW at the Hats Off to Volunteers event in RB.
His favorite aspect of volunteering is “helping people and society as a whole whenever there is a possible chance,” Cantor said.
As for why he joined veterans groups, Cantor said, “I love my country … so it is right to support military organizations after my retirement.”
Among Cantor’s many other associations are the USS Midway Museum. He served aboard from 1951-53, but said it looked significantly different because after his time the deck was remodeled to prevent accidents.
Cantor said current service members should join a veterans group because most members are World War II veterans who are dying daily and with greater numbers they have more lobbying power with politicians.
Though he considered applying for an Honor Flight, which takes World War II and other veterans to Washington, D.C., to see their war memorials, Cantor said he does not need to because last August his family surprised him with a trip. Eight relatives made the journey; his first there.
When visiting the World War II Memorial, Cantor said, “It was amazing and brought tears to my eyes.”
Cantor and his wife, Lois, are planning to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary this fall. The couple moved to the Seven Oaks neighborhood of Rancho Bernardo in 1971.
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