The beacon that has sat atop Mount Diablo since its installation before World War II is set to be illuminated next week in remembrance of the start of the United States' involvement in the war, with a ceremony featuring the county's final surviving veteran of the war.
Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (Dec. 7) has traditionally been the one annual holiday to feature a beacon lighting ceremony on Save Mount Diablo, prior to a decision from local officials last year to light the beacon in honor of Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
Despite the beacon's increased prominence for more ceremonies over the past year, the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony remains the signature event for the organizations that partner to celebrate and preserve the natural and cultural history of the mountain, including Save Mount Diablo and the Contra Costa chapter of the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors.
"Someone may think 'why does Save Mount Diablo, a conservation organization, work this historical beacon lighting every year?' And for us conservation is a patriotic endeavor," said Ted Clement, executive director of Save Mount Diablo. "We like to honor those who served and furthermore, when people look up at the beacon they're looking up at the mountain as if it's there to inspire, and we think it is."
Volunteers with Save Mount Diablo take on the task of physically illuminating the historic beacon -- known as the "Eye of Diablo" -- which was first illuminated to guide air traffic in 1928, prior to being extinguished in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
However, local surviving veterans of World War II traditionally do the ceremonial honors of illuminating the beacon during the annual remembrance ceremony. This year, Chuck Kohler -- the county's last surviving World War II veteran -- will be pulling a prop switch timed to align with Save Mount Diablo volunteers' physical beacon lighting.
"It's kind of cute," Clement said. "It's a little old fashioned. You'd think in this day and age we could turn it on from anywhere."
This year's ceremony will mark the second live event in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, following the ceremony's in-person return last year.
"It will be similar to last year in that we will be gathering again at the CSU East Bay campus in Concord," Clement said. "Last year was the first time we had done that because of how bad the pandemic was in the early stages so we'll be doing that again this year, and that's a really positive thing."
The Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony is set to begin at 3:45 p.m. on Dec. 7 in the Oak Room at the California State University East Bay Concord campus. It will feature a number of speakers, including Clement and Kohler, before attendees are invited outside to view the beacon lighting.