OBITUARY

Louis "Kayo" H. Erwin Sr.

March 1, 1925June 7, 2018
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Coxswain Louis Kayo Erwin United States Navy 1942-1946 U.S.S. Indianapolis Kayo Erwin, age 93, a lifelong resident of East Ridge, Tennessee has joined his beloved wife, Thelma of 62 years and his shipmates gone before him on heaven’s golden shores. Kayo’s wife was the love of his life and theirs was a true love story. Mr. Erwin is survived by a son, Kayo Erwin, Jr. and wife Brenda, a daughter, Sandra Erwin and her husband, Ted Beidler. Mr. Erwin also leaves behind four grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, three sisters, two brothers, and various nieces and nephews. As with most families in the 30s and 40s, Kayo grew up on a hard-working farm with his family, including his brother, Tom. In 1942, at the young age of 17, he made a fateful decision to go find his brother who had joined the marines earlier. He never would have imagined that this decision would impact his life in such an enormous way. Coxswain Erwin’s orders were to board the Flagship U.S.S. Indianapolis and during his brave tenure, earned eight battle stars prior to the last fateful voyage. On July 16, 1945, at the age of 20, Coxswain Erwin along with 1,196 shipmates on the U.S.S. Indianapolis departed the San Francisco Hunters Point Naval Shipyard on a top-secret mission. The mission was the delivery of major bomb components and the enriched uranium to the Tinian Islands for the atomic bomb “Little Boy” which was dropped on Hiroshima. The U.S.S. Indianapolis’ crew set a speed record during this mission of 74.5 hours, with an average speed of 29 knots (33 mph) which still stands to this day. With the mission successfully completed, the ship was sent to Guam to pick up replacements for crew members that had completed their tours of duty. After leaving Guam on July 28th, he began her fateful journey to Leyte. At fifteen minutes after midnight on July 30, 1945, two type 95 Japanese torpedoes ripped into the hull of the U.S.S. Indianapolis over the Mariana Trench. The ship was so damaged that it sank in 12 minutes over some of the deepest ocean on earth. Of the 1,196 only 317 survived the most catastrophic loss of life the Navy has ever encountered. Coxswain Erwin along with the 316 other sailors endured 5 nights and 4 days floating in shark-infested waters with only a life jackets, watching their shipmates die all around them. Coxswain Erwin survived the ordeal, was honorably discharged, and made it home to Chattanooga by hitchhiking from Memphis. The truck driver that gave him a ride back to Chattanooga remained a lifelong friend. Once back in Chattanooga, Kayo finally got to see his brother, Tom. Most men do not seek bravery or courage. When you least expect them, such attributes can become etched into your soul forever. Mr. Erwin was a humble man and never described himself as brave or courageous but all of these men who sacrificed so much are the true definition of both. To this day, Naval training includes many aspects of the events of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and how those who survived with courage and persistence. Even with such tragic events still vividly etched in his memory, Mr. Erwin became a loving husband and father or his two proudest accomplishments, his children. Mr. Erwin had a long career with local distributor, Ellis Distributing. His children Kayo and Sandy have always and continue to be so very proud of their father and Mr. Erwin was very proud of his entire family. Mr. Erwin will always be remembered for his kind, loving heart, his firm handshake and his friendship to many. He loved telling his story with his grandchildren’s classmates at school and sharing first-hand with other civic groups who wanted to learn more about this historic event. If he could pass along anything to others it would be the importance of grasping the moment with happiness and a smile. Even at 93 with that sailor’s smile and wink of an eye, he had many Cracker Barrel waitresses smiling. With a life this full there is no room for sadness. God is receiving another angel. The family wants to thank the employees of the East Ridge Food Lion for all of their years of kindness. Dr. Fortney, D. Anz, and the wonderful, caring staff at Tennessee Oncology. Mr. Erwin attended Middle Valley Church of God. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to: Middle Valley Church of God Missions Fund, 1703 Thrasher Pike, Hixson, TN 37343. Pallbearers will be Don Abernathy, Barrett Chambers, Jody Chambers, Marc Gentry, Abdiel Irizarry, and Doyle Johnson. The family will be accepting friends for visitation at the Chattanooga Funeral Home North Chapel, 5401 Highway 153, Hixson, TN on Monday, June 11, 2018 2-8 p.m. and on Tuesday, June 12th 2-4 p.m. Funeral Services will be held at 4:00p.m. on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 at Chattanooga Funeral Home North Chapel. Interment at will follow at Hamilton Memorial Gardens.

Services

  • Visitation Monday, June 11, 2018
  • Visitation Tuesday, June 12, 2018
  • Funeral Service Tuesday, June 12, 2018
REMEMBERING

Louis "Kayo" H. Erwin Sr.

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Sherry Adkins

June 13, 2018

I first met Mr. Erwin at the Indy Reunion in July 2014. My Uncle Mac, Seaman 1st Class James McLaurin Harrison, was aboard the USS Indianapolis when it was torpedoed by the Japanese July 1945. He was Lost at Sea. Mr. Erwin had been made aware that a niece of Mac's would be at the Reunion. When I approached him, he said, "Mississippi." That was Uncle Mac's nickname on the USS Indy. He explained that he didn't know him personally, only in passing him on the Indy. It thrilled my heart to meet someone that knew Uncle Mac, even though he couldn't tell me anything about that tragic day. I believe it is a blessing that Uncle Mac's family will never know exactly how he died, whether it be at the initial bombing or later in the water. I'll never forget how nice Mr. Erwin was and that he took the time to talk to me. Praying for his family and the remaining Indy Survivors.

Angie Kellar (USS Indianapolis 2nd watch)

June 11, 2018

RIP sir and Thank You for your service. Prayers to the family.

Miguel/Jeannette Ramirez

June 11, 2018

Our hearts and prayers are with the family in this time of sadness. May God provide you the peace and comfort that only comes from him. Mr. Keyo will always be our Hero!

Gary Gilcrease

June 9, 2018

So sorry for your loss. My dad, James Gilcrease, was one of the survivors. He passed away in 2001. Rest In Peace Louis.

Gary Gilcrease
Second Watch

dianna overbey colvin

June 8, 2018

Dianna and Bart Colvin
Honories USS Indianapolis Survivors
Indianapolis, Indiana

Dianna Overbey Colvin

June 8, 2018

Kayo was amazing!! He was handsome, smelled so good, a beautiful soul and a gentle hero. I wanted to give to these men, the Survivors of the USS Indianapolis, for the heinous events they endured during and after the sinking. The more I gave the far more we received -- that was not the design. Kayo gave so much. We've learned from him that despite all the ugly, you can rise above in love, giving and smiles. He truly lived by this and it showed by his actions and the outstanding family he created. He made everyone feel important and special. Best stated in his obituary 'With a life this full there is no room for sadness. God is receiving another angel." We adored how he would practice his beautiful penmanship for book signings. Selfishly, we want more from Kayo, we could never learn or witness enough. What a blessing to have known him, something we will never take advantage of and hope to share the love like this with others. It has always been great to see Sandy and Kayo Jr carry his mannerisms and actions within themselves, showing he does live on here and in the Heaven above. Deepest sympathies to the family.

Jack Bennett

June 8, 2018

So sorry for your loss Sandy and family. Your dad was a great hero.

Thomas & Libby Widgeon

June 8, 2018

Sorry For Your Loss
Jesus Loves Me
You Are Special

Stacey Gibson

June 7, 2018

May you find comfort in your family, friends, Faith and fond memories.
Stacey Gibson
Daughter of Buck Gibson
Survivor of the USS INDIANAPOLIS

Maria Eck Bullard

June 7, 2018

So sorry for the loss of of this sweet American Hero.
May he rest in peace, and may you find comfort in a lifetime of special memories.
Maria Eck Bullard
Daughter of USS Indianapolis Survivor Harold Eck
Chairman of USS Indianapolis 2nd Watch Organization

Biography

Coxswain Louis Kayo Erwin United States Navy
1942-1946 U.S.S. Indianapolis
Kayo Erwin, age 93, a lifelong resident of East Ridge, Tennessee has joined his beloved wife, Thelma of 62 years and his shipmates gone before him on heaven’s golden shores. Kayo’s wife was the love of his life and theirs was a true love story. Mr. Erwin is survived by a son, Kayo Erwin, Jr. and wife Brenda, a daughter, Sandra Erwin and her husband, Ted Beidler. Mr. Erwin also leaves behind four grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, three sisters, two brothers, and various nieces and nephews.
As with most families in the 30s and 40s, Kayo grew up on a hard-working farm with his family, including his brother, Tom. In 1942, at the young age of 17, he made a fateful decision to go find his brother who had joined the marines earlier. He never would have imagined that this decision would impact his life in such an enormous way. Coxswain Erwin’s orders were to board the Flagship U.S.S. Indianapolis and during his brave tenure, earned eight battle stars prior to the last fateful voyage.
On July 16, 1945, at the age of 20, Coxswain Erwin along with 1,196 shipmates on the U.S.S. Indianapolis departed the San Francisco Hunters Point Naval Shipyard on a top-secret mission. The mission was the delivery of major bomb components and the enriched uranium to the Tinian Islands for the atomic bomb “Little Boy” which was dropped on Hiroshima. The U.S.S. Indianapolis’ crew set a speed record during this mission of 74.5 hours, with an average speed of 29 knots (33 mph) which still stands to this day.
With the mission successfully completed, the ship was sent to Guam to pick up replacements for crew members that had completed their tours of duty. After leaving Guam on July 28th, she began her fateful journey to Leyte. At fifteen minutes after midnight on July 30, 1945, two type 95 Japanese torpedoes ripped into the hull of the U.S.S. Indianapolis over the Mariana Trench. The ship was so damaged that it sank in 12 minutes over some of the deepest ocean on earth. Of the 1,196 only 317 survived the most catastrophic loss of life the Navy has ever encountered. Coxswain Erwin along with the 316 other sailors endured 5 nights and 4 days floating in shark-infested waters with only a life jackets, watching their shipmates die all around them. Coxswain Erwin survived the ordeal, was honorably discharged, and made it home to Chattanooga by hitchhiking from Memphis. The truck driver that gave him a ride back to Chattanooga remained a lifelong friend.
Once back in Chattanooga, Kayo finally got to see his brother, Tom.
Most men do not seek bravery or courage. When you least expect them, such attributes can become etched into your soul forever. Mr. Erwin was a humble man and never described himself as brave or courageous but all of these men who sacrificed so much are the true definition of both.
To this day, Naval training includes many aspects of the events of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and how those who survived with courage and persistence.
Even with such tragic events still vividly etched in his memory, Mr. Erwin became a loving husband and father or his two proudest accomplishments, his children.
Mr. Erwin had a long career with local distributor, Ellis Distributing. His children Kayo and Sandy have always and continue to be so very proud of their father and Mr. Erwin was very proud of his entire family.
Mr. Erwin will always be remembered for his kind, loving heart, his firm handshake and his friendship to many. He loved telling his story with his grandchildren’s classmates at school and sharing first-hand with other civic groups who wanted to learn more about this historic event. If he could pass along anything to others it would be the importance of grasping the moment with happiness and a smile. Even at 93 with that sailor’s smile and wink of an eye, he had many Cracker Barrel waitresses smiling. With a life this full there is no room for sadness. God is receiving another angel.
The family wants to thank the employees of the East Ridge Food Lion for all of their years of kindness. Dr. Fortney, D. Anz, and the wonderful, caring staff at Tennessee Oncology.
Mr. Erwin attended Middle Valley Church of God.
In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to: Middle Valley Church of God Missions Fund, 1703 Thrasher Pike, Hixson, TN 37343.
Pallbearers will be Don Abernathy, Barrett Chambers, Jody Chambers, Marc Gentry, Abdiel Irizarry, and Doyle Johnson.
The family will be accepting friends for visitation at the Chattanooga Funeral Home North Chapel, 5401 Highway 153, Hixson, TN on Monday, June 11, 2018 2-8 p.m. and on Tuesday, June 12th 2-4 p.m.
Funeral Services will be held at 4:00p.m. on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 at Chattanooga Funeral Home North Chapel.
Interment at will follow at Hamilton Memorial Gardens.