Reconnecting after 63 years

CHRISTINE MAI-DUC AND SAMANTHA SCHAEFER
Last updated 05:00 01/01/2014
Clara Gantt
Andrew Renneisen/ MCT

DECADES GONE: Clara Gantt, the 94-year-old widow of US Army Sgt. Joseph Gantt, weeps in front of her her husband's casket after it is lowered from the plane

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Funeral services will be held for an Army sergeant whose remains were identified and returned to his 94-year-old widow earlier in December, 63 years after his death as a prisoner of war in Korea.

Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Gantt, of the US Army, was to receive full military honours at his funeral. The funeral was to be private, but the cemetery service at Inglewood Park Cemetery was to be open to the public, according to the USO Greater Los Angeles Area.

Gantt went missing during combat in 1950. He was presumed dead, but his wife, Clara Gantt, held out hope and never remarried.

"I would just pray and ask the Lord to let me live until they find a closure for him so I can be here to put him away myself," she said.

The bedroom wall of her home, the one she bought for her husband and he never saw, is covered with his military certificates and photos of him.

For decades, she attended meetings in Washington to update family members of some 84,000 service members still missing in action.

Gantt joined the Army in 1942 and served in the South Pacific during World War II. In 1946, he met his wife-to-be, Clara, on a train to California.

After a long courtship, they married in 1948. They lived in Washington state until he was assigned as a field medic in the Korean War.

"I told him I missed him so much," she said. "And I expect him to come home and he didn't."

Officials later discovered Joseph Gantt had died in March 1951. His remains were sent to a military forensics lab in Honolulu, where they were identified.

Gantt's flag-draped casket arrived at Los Angeles International Airport in the early morning hours December 20. His wife, who attended the tarmac ceremony, rose from her wheelchair and cried over the casket.

"I am very, very proud of him," she told reporters afterward. "I always did love my husband, we was two of one kind, we loved each other. And that made our marriage complete."

-MCT

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