Manuel Magdaleno Maya, known to many as “Manny,” was born to Manuel Sevilla and Maria De La Luce Maya on Dec. 14, 1921, in Avalon on Santa Catalina Island, California.
His parents had emigrated from Mexico in March of that year. Manuel grew up on the island with his brother, Carlos, and sister, Helen, until he graduated from Avalon High School in 1941.
He enjoyed such sports as basketball and soccer, and his hobbies included classical music, attending movies and the school newspaper. His ambition out of high school was to attend junior college and enter the medical field.
Manuel’s father always told him to take advantage of education and to be loyal to his country, but with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the young Manny dropped out of college and enlisted in the U.S. Navy on May 29, 1942. He completed basic training in San Diego and subsequently joined the Marine Corps as a pharmacist’s mate.
Being family oriented, Manuel sent all his paychecks home and received necessities from the Red Cross. He received his orders for the Pacific and trained on the island of Samoa. He first saw action at Guadalcanal with the Third Marine Raider Battalion. Here he encountered one of his most memorable experiences—meeting author Ernest Hemingway, actor Ray Milland and best of all, Admiral William Halsey who would later award him the Silver Star for his actions at Puruata Island at Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville.
He landed at Puruata Island with K Co., Third Raider Battalion. Here he received his two highest awards, the Purple Heart and the Silver Star.
During WWII, Manuel also served in China and was awarded the WWII Victory and China Service medals. The Korean War saw him continue his service and commendations.
Finally, Manuel ended his service in the Vietnam War. He couldn’t understand the “hippies” protesting the war but believed those kinds of people were better off at home. They had no heart to fight.
Manuel retired for good in 1972, and after a month visiting his sister in Mexico, retired in Avalon. He loved the island and its people. He spent most of his days intriguing the tourists with the history of Catalina, his friends with war stories and working various jobs to earn extra money. He loved to read history and poetry and enjoyed playing golf with his friends. Manuel loved his country and stayed vocal with the City Council.
Manuel fought liver disease over the last years of his life and finally succumbed to congestive heart failure on May 21, 1991, at his home on Tremont Street.
Manuel will always be remembered as a high-spirited, vocal and loyal person to his family, his friends and his country. So when you hear the bell on the hill ring, always remember for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.