A 94-year-old widow gave her husband one last kiss, but this time on his casket, as she laid him to rest in a funeral nearly 60 years after he disappeared in the Korean War. Remains of Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Gantt has just made it back to his home, Southern California, last week. Clara, his wife, never remarried and remained committed to Joseph through it all. Tena Ezzeddine reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013.
A widow gives her husband one last kiss, but this time, on his casket.
Funeral services commenced Saturday for an Army sergeant who died as a prisoner of war in Korea nearly 63 years ago but whose remains were only recently identified and returned to Los Angeles.
The service for Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Gantt, with full military honors, was at the Dwelling Place Foursquare Church, 3130 W. 111th Place in Inglewood, with an interment to follow at Inglewood Park Cemetery.
It took more than six decades for Gantt's 94-year-old widow, Clara, to finally see her husband off properly. She bent down to give him a kiss, but this time, her lips graced his casket.
"Sixty-three years, I feel fine, but I wish it could've been earlier," Clara said.
In the darkness before dawn a week ago, Clara approached her late husband's remains as they were brought to LAX in an emotional honor guard ceremony.
Now, she remembers the love of her life as she walked to his final resting place.
Gantt was a field medic who went missing in action on Nov. 30, 1950 during the Korean War while serving with Battery C, 503rd Field Artillery, 2nd Infantry Division, according to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office in Washington, D.C.
According to the office, elements of the 2nd Infantry Division were attacked by greater numbers of Chinese forces near the town of Kunu-ri, North Korea. The division disengaged and withdrew, fighting its way through a series of Chinese roadblocks. Numerous U.S. soldiers were reported missing that day in the vicinity of Somindong, North Korea.
After a 1953 exchange of prisoners of war, returning U.S. soldiers reported that Gantt had been injured in battle, captured by Chinese forces and died in a POW camp in early 1951 from malnutrition and lack of medical care. His remains were only recently identified. Information on when they were found was not immediately available from the missing personnel office.
Nearly 7,900 Americans are still unaccounted for from the Korean War. According to the Defense Department, modern technology allows identifications to continue to be made from remains turned over by North Korea or recovered from that nation by American teams.
"Sixty-some odd years and just receiving his remains, coming home, was a blessing and I am so happy that I was living to accept him," Clara Gantt said.
She met her future husband in 1946 while on a train heading to California. Two years later, they were married.
She lives a few miles away from the airport in Inglewood. She bought the home in the 1960s to await her husband's return and even hired a gardener because he hated yardwork, she said.
One wall of her bedroom is covered with photos of military certificates and photos but Gantt said she hasn't displayed his posthumously awarded Purple Heart and Bronze Star with Valor for fear they would be stolen; there have been many break-ins over the years in her neighborhood.
Over the years she worked as a caregiver for the disabled and children. But she never was tempted to marry.
"I am very, very proud of him. He was a wonderful husband, an understanding man," she told reporters. "I always did love my husband, we was two of one kind, we loved each other. And that made our marriage complete."
Clara Gantt said she plans one day to be buried next to him.