ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - A Navy World War II veteran died, one day after returning home from a reunion softball game for U.S. and Japanese veterans in Hawaii.
Karl Sommer, 81, had a heart attack and died Saturday in St. Petersburg, said his wife of 56 years, Marge Sommer.
"Karl was extremely enthusiastic about the trip," she said. "He had a blast. He thought that the Japanese men were just top notch in the way they handled themselves. The trip meant a tremendous amount to him."
Sommer, who served aboard Navy amphibious landing crafts, hit two singles for the Kids & Kubs, a team made up of World War II veterans, in their 14-2 victory Wednesday against Japan's Over the Rainbows.
The game, played at Hans L'Orange Park in Waipahu, was proposed by Sho Ishida, a Japanese television director who filmed a documentary on the Kids & Kubs several years ago.
Sommer was a high school sophomore in Rochester, N.Y., when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. His father, an immigrant who fought for Germany in World War I, encouraged him to enlist.
"He said, in his German accent, 'Karl, this is your country, and if you want to fight for your country, you fight for it,' " Sommer told the St. Petersburg Times before his trip to Hawaii.
Sommer joined the Navy in 1944 and later served in Korea. He later became a St. Petersburg police detective and owned an orange grove near Dade City. *