Orville "Lester" Rusher

USS Arizona Letter Head - Official Image

A Dedication to ORville "Lester" Rusher

Orville "Lester" Rusher was a 21 year-old engineer onboard the U.S.S Arizona. He was a farm boy from Marceline, Missouri who had just been discharged and was awaiting his official papers saying he could go home. On November 25th, 2941 he wrote and mailed a letter to his sister Helen Rusher (who is the current generation's Great-Great Grandmother on Vicki (Van Meter) Borlin's side of the family. The letter describes what any young sailor stationed in Hawaii would experience. The letter is described as a somewhat unremarkable letter of everyday thoughts of a young sailor looking forward to returning home. Unfortunately, that would not happen.

The attack at Pearl Harbor by the Japanese happened as history would record on December 7, 1941; "A day that will live in infamy". Lester's family received his letter on December 8th and even at that time though they knew of the attack, they did not know he had died onboard the U.S.S. Arizona. His remains have never been recovered and are still onboard the sunken battleship. Lester's name and rank are engraved upon the white stone at the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial site in Hawaii.

At the time of his death, Lester's rank was Machinist Mate First Class (E-6) for US Navy. Which would have put his physical location onboard the U.S.S. Arizona below deck possibly around the engine or mechanical systems that operate the battleship. Its logical to think he may have not even know what happened at the time of attack and could have been trapped below as the ship was hit by Japanese bombs, rolled-over and sank.

The letter Lester wrote was carefully preserved for decades by Helen and was passed down over the years until it reached today generation. Vicki Borlin found the letter in a cardboard box in her mother's garage. Realizing the historical value and emotional worth of the letter, Vicki took the letter, sealed it in a protective plastic overlay and carefully scanned and recorded its contents. Vicki started communicating with the U.S. Navy and Pearl Harbor Memorial personnel about what she discovered. Vicki and Jon Borlin also had a flag flown over the U.S.S Arizona at Pearl Harbor for Lester on his birthday in 1999. It wouldn't be until years later an opportunity to donate the letter and photo (see below) to the Pearl Harbor National Park Service was possible. Vicki is quoted to say, "We've had the letter for a very long time, and I decided we needed to give it to somebody who could take care of it."

In May of 2019, Maxx Borlin (Vicki and Jon Borlin's 17 year-old son) traveled with Vicki to Hawaii during a band trip with Triad High School. They hand-carried Lester's letter with them. Lester would have been Maxx's great-great Uncle and he too realized the importance of donating the letter. The trip was a perfect opportunity to offically present the letter while the band performed at the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center on Memorial Day. During the presentation, park ranger Daniel Brown spoke of the letter: "What's remarkable about the letter is that it is somewhat unremarkable in its tone. He's talking about the things any young sailor here would experience. Kind of the calm before the storm, not realizing what's going to come down in the future in just a matter of days." Vicki and Maxx also presented a wreath in honor of Rusher and those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Local press and TV news stations were present for the presentation of which you can watch below.

Graves of Tony and Lester Rusher (2020)

USS Arizona rolled after its bombing - Lester and 1176 other sailors perished

Maxx and Vicki Borlin Dedicate Letter

Orville-Lester-Rusher.pdf