Reuben Armus, 80, pipe fitter, veteran who witnessed bombing of Pearl Harbor

February 23, 2002|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Reuben Armus, a retired pipe fitter who survived the Pearl Harbor attack, died Sunday of heart disease at Manor Care Health Services in Towson. He was 80 and had lived in Ruxton for 23 years.

Mr. Armus was a 20-year-old Army private who had been in military service for two years and was stationed at Fort Ruger at the Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.

He later described to family members how he was awakened by the Japanese airstrike. He and many of his fellow servicemen had returned from Saturday night leave only hours earlier.

"There was such pandemonium," said his wife of 56 years, the former Betty Goloskov. "My husband soon began bleeding. Somehow his nose had been crushed. He didn't start talking about Pearl Harbor until years later, when his grandchildren began asking questions."

Born in New York, where he was educated, he was known as Rusty because of his red hair. He joined the Army in 1938 as a way of staying out of trouble.

"He wanted to escape the streets of Brooklyn and the Bronx," his wife said.

"He knew he might get into trouble if he couldn't get away. His friends were starting to break into houses. There were no organized activities for them, and they just hung out on street corners."

In the 1980s, after years of silence about Pearl Harbor, Mr. Armus began talking about that Sunday morning. He said he and others in his unit jumped out of bed only to find the ammunition stores were locked up. He picked up a loaded rifle and shot at Japanese planes. He also threw rocks he scooped up from the ground.

In 1987, he decided to return to Pearl Harbor with his wife and family members.

"It was an intense trip, but it was his choice to go," said Erin Braverman of Seffner, Fla., a granddaughter who accompanied him. "There was a big part of that trip that was difficult for him, but it was an honor to accompany him."

Mr. Armus remained in the Pacific throughout World War II and eventually made it to the Philippine Islands. There, he contracted a tropical disease that affected his lungs for many years.

While assigned to Fort Meade in 1945, he attended a social function at the Young Men's Hebrew Association building on West Monument Street in Baltimore. It was there that he met his future wife.

After their marriage, the couple settled in the 1200 block of E. Baltimore St. before moving to Pall Mall Road in Northwest Baltimore, to Randallstown and then to Ruxton Towers apartments in 1978.

A former pipe fitter for Bethlehem Steel at Sparrows Point, he was later a supervisor for the Maryland Cup Co. in Owings Mills. He retired on a medical disability about 27 years ago.

He then became a volunteer for North Charles General Hospital in Charles Village. For six years, he counseled patients with cardiac conditions who were about undergo heart catheterizations.

"He had a gentle, laid-back manner and the ability to tell people they were going to be all right," Mrs. Armus said.

Services were held Monday at Sol Levinson & Brothers.

In addition to his wife and granddaughter, Mr. Armus is survived by two daughters, Sheila Fishman of Balrico, Fla., and Ellen Creegan of Parkton; two brothers, Martin Armus of Hollywood, Fla., and Harry Armus of Rockaway, N.Y.; four other grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

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