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Brother waited nearly 80 years to be able to lay Marine to rest

A 1st Theater Sustainment Command Soldier presents a folded American flag to a family member of a deceased service member, Nov. 5, 2018. (Sgt. Kayla Benson/U.S. Army)

John Arthurholtz, 91, had pretty much given up hope he would ever be able to lay to rest his older brother, Marley.

Marley — eight years older and the kind of big brother who not only let John tag along, but invited him to — was a 20-year-old private in the Marine Corps and serving aboard the USS Oklahoma when he and 428 others on the ship were killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

But his remains had never been identified. Until this fall.

Now John will be traveling with family from his home in California to South Bend to finally bury Marley in a plot next to his parents’ graves.

“That’s what my mother wanted,” Arthurholtz said.

Mary Arthurholtz had bought a plot for Marley, next to places for her and husband William, after Marley was declared killed in action in January 1942. She hoped someday his remains might be found, John said.

Marley will be buried at 11 a.m. Dec. 7 — 78 years after he died — at St. Joseph Valley Memorial Park cemetery, across from University Park Mall.

Anyone who wants to attend the burial is welcome, Arthurholtz said.

He thinks some people will want to pay their respects to the fallen Marine. After so many years, there aren’t many family members or friends left who remember Marley, he said.

The Tribune recently spoke with Jeanne Geyer, 92, of Lakeville, a distant cousin who grew up virtually next door to the Arthurholtz family on the south side of South Bend, about the recent identification of Marley Arthurholtz’s remains and the upcoming interment.

She was not aware at the time John was still living, but expressed delight when she later learned he is.

Arthurholtz, the retired owner of an insurance agency, said he’s been living in California for more than 50 years.

Back in 2005, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency contacted him to collect a blood sample for mitochondrial DNA by which it hoped to someday be able to positively identify Marley’s remains.

After 14 years, Arthurholtz said he had essentially given up hope an identification could be made.

Then Marines arrived at his home this fall with the news.

“I was devastated,” Arthurholtz said. “I couldn’t believe it after all these years my brother had been found.”

Arthurholtz recalls Marley joined the service immediately after he graduated from Lakeville High School in 1940 because jobs were scarce and the idea of becoming a Marine was appealing.

“He was a seagoing Marine … he was so proud when he got in,” he said. “He was a good big brother.”

Marley, who played on the high school basketball squad, would summon John to come along when he drove the family car to team practice.

“He’d take me everywhere,” Arthurholtz said. “I was so proud to get to ride with him. I’d sit in the stands and watch him practice.”

When Marley was killed, the family was devastated, he said.

Arthurholtz said he went into the service as soon as he could to “avenge my brother,” joining the Air Force at age 18 and serving for five years in postwar Germany.

After the service, he went on with his life but hoped there might come a day he could lay Marley to rest.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, a federal agency with a budget for 2020 of $146 million, has worked since after the Vietnam War to collect and identify the remains of America’s missing service members around the globe.

In 2015, the agency undertook a project to identify the remains of USS Oklahoma crew members that had been recovered and buried in military graves in Hawaii. The names of the missing are inscribed on monuments, but most of the bones were jumbled and anonymous.

To date, 240 service members from the Oklahoma have been identified, Sgt. 1st Class Sean Everette, a DPAA spokesman, said.

He said the work is important to honor military members’ sacrifices, as well as the sacrifices of the families they left behind.

“Not only can we bring these service members home,” Everette said, “we can bring these families a sense of peace and closure as well.”


© 2019 the South Bend Tribune