LLOYAL G. Ashford was aboard the destroyer USS Shaw when it was crippled by Japanese bombers at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
"He told about seeing two guys next to him get blown up," said his daughter Cynthia Moultrie.
The Shaw was so badly damaged in the attack, the sailors were ordered to abandon ship, although it was later repaired and returned to duty.
Lloyal went on to serve on other destroyers, including the USS Philippine Sea, the USS Craven, the USS San Francisco, and participated in crucial battles such as the Battle of Midway that turned the tide of the war in the South Pacific.
He spent 30 years in the Navy, also served during the Korean War, and rose to the rank of chief petty officer. He was a cook, but even cooks had battle stations and fought alongside everybody else.
He died Thursday of complications of diabetes and pneumonia at age 87. He was living in Upper Darby but had lived in West Philadelphia most of his life.
Lloyal served as a corrections officer at the House of Correction for 15 years after his Navy service, ran his own catering service, worked as a valet for a private family, was devoted to his church and his community, and attended college late in life and got straight A's.
He was born on a farm in Clinton, N.C., one of nine children of Monroe and Louiza Ashford. He managed the farm until he entered the Navy in 1940.
Although blacks had served in the American Navy since the Revolution, they were relegated to menial jobs until President Harry Truman ordered the full integration of the military in 1948.
Lloyal told the story of the time he was back home in the South in his uniform when a white man called to him, "Hey, boy, is that a Navy uniform?
Told it was, the man responded, "Well, goddamn!"
Lloyal married the former Melanie Evans in 1945.
Having cooked for hundreds of men, Lloyal found it relatively easy preparing meals for family and friends. But he prepared meals with a flourish. Presentation was important. From the roasted pig with an apple in its mouth to watermelon baskets and other special touches, he specialized in decorative settings.
The same care carried over to the catering business he operated for a number of years.
In his retirement, he attended Community College of Philadelphia and took various courses.
"He had always wanted to go to college," his daughter said.
Lloyal was an active member of Alleyne Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church in West Philadelphia. He was a trustee, steward and treasurer, and sang on the choirs.
He was also active in civic affairs and was a member of the Carroll Park Association.
"He was an easygoing man," his daughter said. "He was always willing to help someone. His was a lifetime of service.
"A cousin told me that when he got a job as a schoolteacher in Camden, Dad bought him five suits so he would look presentable. If anything broke at the church, he fixed it. Whatever needed to get done, he did it."
Besides his wife and daughter, he is survived by another daughter, Janice Ashford-Pettyjohn-Fields; a son, Martin D. Washington, and five grandchildren.