Unclaimed remains of veterans coming to Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery
July 21, 2011
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (July 21, 2011) -- Members of the Fort Leavenworth community will have the rare opportunity to attend burial services for a Civil War veteran and World War I veterans next week.
Civil War veteran Pvt. George McCarthy is one of 14 veterans and three wives whose unclaimed remains will be buried at 10 a.m. July 26 at the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery.
Linda Smith, head of operations for the Missing in America Project, researched each of the veterans. The nonprofit organization finds unclaimed remains of deceased veterans and researches paperwork to make sure their identities are correct.
Smith said researchers don’t know much about McCarthy. He was born in 1844 in Canada and became a sailor. She said on Sept. 5, 1864, he joined the 2nd Regiment, Missouri Artillery volunteers (Union) as a substitute for another soldier. McCarthy was a clerk in the military. He was discharged Aug. 25, 1865. He died in 1946 at the age of 102 and was cremated.
For more than 60 years, the Civil War veteran’s ashes sat unclaimed in a storage facility in Kansas City.
McCarthy will be buried at the cemetery with Civil War re-enactors paying tribute. Later, the ashes of 13 other unclaimed veterans and three of their wives will also be honored.
Smith said funeral homes across the country have unclaimed ashes of deceased veterans.
“There’s thousands and thousands of them,” she said. “With something like this, it’s very rare to find a Civil War veteran. And even if you do find them, it’s hard to verify them.”
Along with McCarthy, burials include:
• Lt. Col. Ernest Mark and his wife, Frances. He served the U.S. Army from May 28, 1918, to June 11, 1919, and then joined the Reserves. He was an Army doctor and noted urology specialist in the Kansas City area. Mark and his wife were found dead of poisoning by their 16-year-old daughter on June 1, 1937. A police officer told The Kansas City Star in 1937 that his investigation “gave no indication Dr. and Mrs. Mark had been slain.” Although a funeral was held, their ashes were never claimed and the Marks had no near relatives except for their daughter.
• Maj. Albert Payne Duval, who served the Army from April 18, 1917 to 1919. He was a combat veteran in World War I and died in 1959.
• 1st Lt. Charles Henry Shumaker and wife Alvira. Shumaker served the Army from Dec. 17, 1917, to 1919. He was a World War I combat veteran and received the Victory Button and Bronze Star Medal. He died in 1943.
• Sgt. 1st Class James W. McDonald, who served the Army from April 20, 1917, to March 28, 1919. He died in 1951.
• Sgt. Roy S. Robbins, who served the Army during World War I from June 19, 1916, to May 24, 1919. He died in 1952.
• Sgt. William E. Kinney, who served the Army during World War I from April 9, 1917, to Feb. 26, 1919. He died in 1932.
• Pvt. John W. Carpenter and his wife Marnodie. Carpenter served in the U.S. Army with the Army of Occupation in France from May 28, 1918, to June 11, 1919, and was a World War I combat veteran. He died in 1967.
• Pvt. Cyrus T. Dorr, who served the Army July 2, 1918, until his death Dec. 2, 1918. He was 25.
• Pvt. John C. McFadyean, who served the Army twice, from April 20, 1899, to May 1, 1902 during the Spanish-American War and again during World War I from Aug. 30, 1918, to Dec. 10, 1918. He died in 1941.
• Pvt. Ralph A. Lowe, who served the Army from May 15, 1918, to April 11, 1919. He died in 1960.
• Pvt. Ralph R. Wilson, who served the Army as a medic from Jan. 5, 1918, to Dec. 16, 1918. He died in 1952.
• Pvt. John L. Lawing, who served the Army from Sept. 13, 1918, to Dec. 4, 1918. He died in 1957.
• Pvt. Jerome M. Joffee, who served the Army from Aug. 20, 1918, to Oct. 18, 1918. He died in 1953.
William A. Owensby Jr., director of the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery complex for the National Cemetery Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs, said that as a funeral director, he’s seen many unclaimed cremated remains. Funeral homes are often bound by law to hold the remains until someone picks them up, Owensby said.
“Maybe some didn’t have the money to pay, some just forgot, sometimes they think someone else picked them up, or sometimes there was nobody left in the family to take care of them,” he said.
Owensby said each death certificate in the United States has a box to check “veteran,” so funeral homes and families know the deceased is a veteran.
Missing in America uses the check box as a starting point, then conducts records searches to ensure they know the correct identity of veterans before interring them in a federal cemetery. Smith, herself a Navy veteran, has dedicated her retirement toward the Missing in America Project.
“I have eight to 10 genealogists who work every day and even they haven’t been able to verify (records),” she said. “Unless they’re verified as a veteran, we can’t bury them.”