With full military honors — delayed some 73 years — Ora Sharninghouse, Jr., was laid to rest Saturday under a blue sky in a quiet country cemetery.
The remains of Mr. Sharninghouse — a sailor who had been missing in action since 1944 — were recovered from the north Pacific in 2014, identified through DNA in 2017, and flown home Wednesday to be buried next to his parents in Weaver Cemetery.
“Of all the times I traveled up and down this road mowing cemeteries, I just never thought that the time would come that I would actually be burying this gentleman’s remains, being missing for 73 years,” said John Hamman, road superintendent/sexton for Bloom Township in southern Wood County. “It’s quite an honor to be able to do that.”
For nearly 25 years, Mr. Hamman said he mowed along the Sharninghouse family plot, where a small monument was installed years ago in memory of Mr. Sharninghouse, who was just 22 when the torpedo bomber on which he rode as gunner, crashed into the waters near the islands of Palau Sept. 8, 1944.
Members of the Project Recover team who located the downed plane and retrieved the remains of Mr. Sharninghouse and radioman Bud Rybarczyk traveled Saturday to Findlay for Mr. Sharninghouse’s memorial service at Coldren-Crates Funeral Home.
Flip Colmer, a retired naval aviator, presented a 48-star flag to Mr. Sharninghouse’s only surviving sibling, Joan Stough of Findlay, during the funeral.
There were sailors and veterans, a rear admiral from the Navy, and plenty of Mr. Sharninghouse’s descendants to pay tribute to him, lift him up in prayer, and give him a final salute.
It was an emotional day for Mrs. Stough, 84, although more celebratory than sad, she said. Her mother, the late Myrtle Sharninghouse, never gave up hope that the son everyone called “Junior” would one day come home.
At the funeral home, Jeremy Sharninghouse said he first heard about his great-uncle when he was a junior in high school, attending the American Legion Buckeye Boys State. It’s a tradition that former Boys Staters who went on to sacrifice their lives in service to their country are recognized.
Ora Sharninghouse, Jr., Navy Reserve Aviation Ordinanceman 2nd Class, USS Intrepid, Air Group 18, had attended Boys State in 1939.
The three-sport athlete graduated from McComb High School in 1940 and was voted both best looking and best smile by his classmates. To avoid being drafted into the Army, Mr. Sharninghouse enlisted in the Navy.
Jeremy said four of his great uncles served in World War II, three of whom returned alive.
“My great-grandmother must have been an amazing woman to have four sons serving in the military at the same time,” he said. “I’m betting she did a lot praying and very little sleeping.”
Also attending the service were members of Mr. Rybarczyk’s family from St. Joseph, Mich. He was memorialized in December at a service that some of the Sharninghouses attended.
“We know they share in our grief and also our joy that our family members have been returned home to us,” Jeremy Sharninghouse said, adding, “For us, this is our closure: to know that he died that day, but not alone, and now his body is safely deposited at home with us. We’ve been blessed with closure, something that not everyone gets.”
Some 16 million Americans served in World War II. More than 400,000 died during the war, and nearly 73,000 missing service members still are unaccounted for, according to the Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
After reciting a well-known verse from Ecclesiastes that speaks of a time for everything, the Rev. Ben Lowell told the crowd, “And we might add, a time to be lost and a time to be found because that is what this is all about.”
© 2018 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)
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