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Thousands Gather In Torrance To Celebrate Late Hometown Hero Louis Zamperini

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TORRANCE (CBSLA.com) —  It was a celebration of life 97 years in the making.

People in Torrance were remembering former Olympian, World War II POW and hometown hero Louis Zamperini Thursday.

Louis Zamperini, 94, at his Hollywood home. The flame still burns in him as he holds the olympic torch he carried at the 1984 Olympic Games. Photo by Brad Graverson 11-7-10

Louis Zamperini, 94, at his Hollywood home. The flame still burns in him as he holds the Olympic torch he carried at the 1984 Olympic Games. Photo by Brad Graverson 11-7-10

The public memorial service was held at the Zamperini Stadium at Torrance High School, his alma mater, and included flyovers, a symbolic lap around the track and public addresses from the late hero’s family.

“He [had] 97 years of a life well-lived. We mourn him. But we also celebrate him,” son Luke Zamperini told KCAL9’s Juan Fernandez.

Zamperini, who died from pneumonia July 2, was a world-class distance runner by the time he graduated from Torrance High School. He later attended USC on a track scholarship, and at age 19, earned a spot on the 1936 U.S. Olympic team.

He went on to serve as a bombardier in World War II  and survived 47 days on a raft after his plane crashed in the South Pacific before he was captured by Japanese soldiers and held as a POW for two years, enduring various forms of torture.

Addressing those in the stadium, Zamperini’s grandson, Clay, said his grandfather’s legacy will live on.

“My grandfather has been a lot of things to a lot of people. He was an example of elite athleticism and a reminder that with hard work and direction, we’re all capable of anything,” he said.

Zamperini’s life story was told in the best-selling book “Unbroken,” the inspiration for a forthcoming biopic directed by Angelina Jolie.

Despite some tough times, his daughter says her father always kept a bright outlook.

“He was happy all the time. He was engaged in life and was a speaker. He did his last speaking engagement the day before he went to the hospital,” Cynthia Zamperini-Garris said.

A flag flown over Torrance City Hall and Torrance High School was presented to the Zamperini family during the memorial.

Members of the family say they plan to take Zamperini’s place on a Rose Parade float on Jan. 1, when he was scheduled to serve as Grand Marshal.

RELATED STORIES:

Louis Zamperini, 1936 Olympian, World War II POW, Dies At 97

Former Olympian, World War II Hero Named 2015 Rose Parade Grand Marshal

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