KANSAS CITY, KAN. — More than six decades after Navy Fireman 2nd Class Payton L. Vanderpool Jr. was killed at Pearl Harbor, his remains will finally return home for burial in the family plot in northwest Missouri.
Word that Vanderpool's remains had been found and identified had been awaited by his two sisters in Kansas City, Kan., almost from the time of the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on the Hawaiian base.
"I'm so thankful I've lived long enough to see it," Thelma Blanton, 76, said this week. "It is absolutely a miracle to me."
"It's overwhelming," said her sister, Flora Mae Young.
Vanderpool grew up northeast of Kansas City and served aboard the battleship USS Pennsylvania, which was in dry dock at Pearl Harbor on the day Japanese warplanes strafed the dock area. Vanderpool and more than 2,000 others died in the attack.
His remains were buried in National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii, but the family didn't know the precise site of the grave. In the years afterward, Blaton wrote letters to see if someone could help locate his final resting place. Help came from historians who still work at sorting through the mysteries of Pearl Harbor.
Remains were disinterred from the cemetery in June of this year, and Vanderpool was finally identified Sept. 22 with the help of dental records.
Navy officers brought the sisters the final details of their brother's case this week.
Now, Young said, his remains will be buried in the family plot in Braymer, Mo. The memorial service will be at 1 p.m. Dec. 7, almost 62 years to the hour after his death.
"I've always heard of people talking about closure," Young said. "Now I know what it means."