James L. Hays, 99 years of age, of Beatrice passed away on Wednesday, May 1, 2024 at Beatrice Health and Rehabilitation in Beatrice. He was born on March 25, 1925 to James and Hazel (Sparks) Hays on the family farm east of Diller. Jim attended Elm Center Grade School and graduated from Beatrice High School. He enlisted in the United States Navy on November 13, 1943 and went to Basic Training in Idaho. Jim received Amphibious Training in California before being deployed to Manilla in the Philippines. He served with the unit ACORN 45, which is Aviation Construction Ordinance and Repair Navy. Jim was flown to Clark Field where there was extensive action to the north and west. There were hardships serving in the Philippines and he was also tested on the trip back. Jim recalled getting sea sick. “One night, the ship rolled and my cot slid across the deck. I was able to get back to the radio shack and go below. We experienced 40 foot plus waves.” He received a Asiatic Pacific Area Medal, the Philippine Liberation Medal and the Victory Medal for World War II. Jim was honorably discharged at San Pedro, California on May 5, 1945. As a radio man, he was first to receive the Victory Message that World War II was over and still had this message and document. Jim married Betty Eick on March 27, 1948 in Lincoln. On July 7, 2005, he was inducted into the Great Navy of Nebraska by Governor Dave Heinemann. Jim participated at National Monument in the Black Hills in 2005 with his shipmates at a reunion for retiring of the “colors” for the Casco Bay, the ship that transported them to the Philippines in a very impressive ceremony at closing time. He was a member for over 70 years of the VFW and American Legion, received the Veteran Honor Award from the County Board and a Quilt of Valor. 

Jim is survived by his wife, Betty; daughters, Kathryn Klein and husband Leroy of Millville, Minnesota, Mary Scherling and husband Rodney of Beatrice; son, Jeffrey Hays and wife Krystal of Diller; son-in-law, Steve Krebs of San Diego, California; grandchildren, Thad Krebs and wife Jennifer, Benjamin Klein and special friend Chat McGarry, Wade Scherling and wife Kayla, Chelsie Nutsch and husband Dustin, Courtney Schoneweis and husband Logan; great grandchildren, Princess, Natalie, Sabrina, Elyse, Eli, Paden, Victoria, Raylynn; brother-in-law, Don Sperber of Colorado; and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents; daughter, Patricia Krebs; grandchildren, Ian Krebs, Andrea Scherling; sister, Audrey Sperber; brother, Richard Hays and wife Eldine; and parents-in-law, Ray and Erma Eick.

No public services will be held at this time. Memorials are suggested to the YMCA in Beatrice to be used towards swimming programs. Condolences may be left online at www.harmanwrightmortuary.com. Harman-Wright Mortuary & Crematory in Beatrice in charge of arrangements.