Nearly 75 years after his death, six Marines carried the flag-draped casket of Harold Patrick Hannon into a South Side church on Saturday morning.
His family members — nieces and nephews he never met — followed him. Their uncle was finally home.
The private first class died Nov. 20, 1943, during the Battle of Tarawa of World War II. It is believed the 28-year-old was buried near where he fell on the tiny central Pacific island of Betio and then reinterred in a military cemetery on the island, where the location of his grave was lost until early 2017.
For decades, family members lacked closure. His nieces and nephews and their children only heard stories about the man who went by the nickname Tidley.
Poinsettias and Christmas trees still adorned the altar inside Nativity of Our Lord Church at St. John Neumann Parish. The church “left them up for Tidley,” the Rev. Michael Bryant told the family members and Marines gathered inside.
“Think of how many Christmases he missed,” Bryant said. “As Christ is born into the world at Christmas, Tidley is born again into your world.”
His late parents, Catherine and Albert Hannon, are now “filled with a greater sense of hope as Tidley walks back into their lives,” Bryant said. The Marine from West Scranton was one of nine Hannon children, all now deceased.
History Flight Inc., a nonprofit organization devoted to bringing missing servicemen home, found the remains of 24 people in an area outside the Betio cemetery’s recorded boundaries. Using dental records, Hannon was identified.
Inside the church, a photo of Hannon in his uniform faced his family. Hannon died seven years before his nephew Dennis Hannon was born. The nephew spoke of his uncle’s courage and what the death of the young Marine meant.
“Remember, those who fall, with their casket, gave the last full measure of devotion,” his nephew said.
As the Marines carried the casket to the awaiting hearse, a man played bagpipes while members of the Marine Corps League Northeast Detachment saluted. At Cathedral Cemetery, where Hannon was laid to rest near his parents, Marines played taps and presented the American flag to his family.
“It’s like we’ve just begun to know him,” Bryant said. “We hope to one day know him again.”
© 2018 The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pa.)
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