Herbert Geoffrey Jacobs, 89, of Box, near Bath, got a chance to hold the medal, his son, Mike, told the Western Daily Press Tuesday.
"He got to hold it, he got to see it, he knew what it was, what it was for and what it meant," Mike Jacobs said. "An hour and a half later, he passed away."
The Arctic Star was officially given to surviving veterans of the arctic convoys last week. But Mike Jacobs said he called at the end of April and told officials his father's life was almost over. The medal arrived the next day.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the "Murmansk Run" that took supplies to the Soviet Union "the worst journey in the world." Britain lost 85 merchant ships and 16 Navy vessels on the route.
But post-war politics, especially the beginning of the Cold War, meant the men who made the run were not honored with their own medal.
Mike Jacobs said his father remained in the Navy briefly after the war, serving as a trainer. One of his colleagues was a young officer named Philip Mountbatten, the future duke of Edinburgh and husband of Queen Elizabeth II.