PORTLAND – Two-thirds of a century ago, Kathleen Wyman drove her brother, Eldon, off to Long Beach, Calif., to join the Navy – off to an assignment on the USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor.
Soon, ashes of his remains will return from Pearl Harbor to Oregon, there to occupy a niche next to their father and mother – there to await, someday, the ashes of Kathleen, who’s long wanted to know that the four members of her immediate family would be reunited.
Ensign Eldon Wyman was 24 when he died in the Japanese attack Dec. 7, 1941. Along with hundreds of others, he was buried in mass graves, officially listed as unknowns.
But Thursday, the Pentagon announced that the remains of Eldon Wyman and two other sailors had been identified and would be returned to their families.
“I’m very grateful that there’s been such persistence in following up on this,” Kathleen Wyman said.
She’s known about the identification for a few weeks, and she’s known about the possibility of an identification for about four years.
The focus on Pearl Harbor remains has intensified in recent years through the research of one of the few survivors of the Oklahoma, Ray Emory.
As a result of Emory’s work, Wyman gave a blood sample for a DNA analysis, used by forensic anthropologists at a special military command along with other means, such as dental records, to identify the remains of her younger brother.
The Pentagon identified the other sailors as Ensign Irvin A.R. Thompson of Hudson County, N.J., and Fireman 2nd Class Lawrence Boxrucker of Dorchester, Wis.
After her brother died, Wyman quit a teaching job in Portland and enlisted as a member of the Navy WAVES. She was on active and reserve duty for 22 years, retiring as a lieutenant commander. In 1980 she retired as a teacher at Wilson High School
Now 94, she remembers the times leading to war and the years of the conflict.
“That was such as life-changing event for so many people,” she said. “That was a very important part of my life.”
She said there are no plans yet for a service for her brother, but one could be scheduled in October.