Lt. Commander Henry (Hank) Rubner, USNR, age 98 of Newtown Square passed away on March 7, 2020 at his residence at White Horse Village, Newtown Square, PA. He was the husband of the late Mary (nee Day) Rubner and is survived by his daughters; Betsy Rubner of Denver, CO, Penny Rubner (Rick Lewis) of Great Falls, MT and Nancy Rubner-Frandsen (Carl Frandsen) of Wayne, PA. Hank is also survived by grandchildren; Dane Frandsen (Kelsey Smith), Tyler Frandsen (Anna), Kelsey Frandsen, Cory Lewis (Mary Wooldridge) and Emily Nichols (Adam) and five great grandchildren.
Hank was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1921 to the late Henry and Amelia (Landmesser) Rubner. He graduated from high school at the age of 16 and went to work during the Depression in New York City at Seaboard Finance in 1938.
In 1942, Hank enlisted in the US Navy with a focus on becoming a Naval Aviator. He trained at Cornell University for Naval Air Training, continuing his education at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and earned his wings in Pensacola in October 1943. He had a decorated flying career during World War II piloting the Douglas Dauntless Dive Bomber and later the Curtis Helldiver.
Hank was initially stationed on Green Island in the South Pacific. Early engagements with the Japanese included battles in Guadalcanal where Hank safely returned to base with a hole so large in his wing that he was able to sit inside the damaged wing for a photo opportunity. In September of 1944, Hank was assigned to Air Group 20 aboard the Lexington CV 16, an Essex Class Carrier. Among his many assignments flying off the carrier, Hank led the first strike on Okinawa and then successfully sank a Japanese Cruiser in January 1945, earning him a Silver Star and the future right for Hank and his wife, Mary, to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Hank’s service to the United States earned him the American Campaign Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with one Silver Star and four Bronze Stars, WWII Victory Medal, Air Medal, Philippine Liberation Ribbon (with two Bronze Stars), Philippine Presidential Unit Citation, Presidential Unit Citation, and the Navy Occupation Service Medal with the Asia Clasp. As a special honor, in 2016, Hank was piped back on board the Lexington, which is now a museum, dry docked in Corpus Christi, Texas. Sitting in the ready room aboard the Lexington, Hank regaled many of his World War II adventures to everyone in attendance. Afterwards, he was able to tour all areas the ship, affectionately known as the Blue Ghost.
Upon returning from the South Pacific, Hank was assigned to Wildwood Naval Air Station in Wildwood, NJ, where he met his wife Mary (Day). Mary was serving in the Waves as a disbursing officer. They were married in March of 1946 and enjoyed 57 years together until her death in 2003.
After the war, Hank considered a career as a commercial pilot but settled down with his family, first in Shaker Heights, Ohio and later in Solon, Ohio, where he had a successful career as a manufacturer’s representative for engineered products.
Hank was known for his infectious smile and twinkly blue eyes. He enjoyed many hobbies including golf, tennis, gardening, singing, playing the harmonica and watching baseball. He was a Cleveland Indians fan for many years, but after moving to Newtown Square in 2003, Hank became a diehard Phillies fan, spending his last birthday at the game. Mostly, however, Hank loved spending time with his family and his many friends.
Relatives and friends are invited to celebrate Hank’s Life at White Horse Village, 535 Gradyville Rd, Newtown Square, PA 19073 on a date to be determined due to COVID-19. Memorial donations may be made to Paoli Hospital Foundation or the USS Lexington Museum on the Bay, Corpus Christi, Texas.