The cremated remains of four World War I veterans were transported in a horse-drawn carriage, accompanied by Patriot Guard Riders and a police escort, to their final resting place at the Roseburg National Cemetery Annex Tuesday afternoon.
The veterans’ remains were forgotten on a shelf at a local mortuary before being rediscovered through the painstaking research of Douglas County Veterans Forum member Carol Hunt and retired Roseburg National Cemetery technician Gigi Grimes Shannon. What the two women found was one of the largest groups of unclaimed veterans remains ever to have been recovered in the state.
In all, 28 veterans will be interred at the Roseburg National Cemetery Annex columbarium over three days of memorials this week. The last two memorials are scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at the Roseburg National Cemetery Annex. Members of the public are encouraged to attend.
Tuesday’s procession led out from the Douglas County Courthouse, where the remains have been stored for the past four weeks. It headed downtown to Harvard Avenue and made its way to the cemetery. Once there, the veterans received a memorial service with full military honors, attended by about 100 people. Following the public service, the four were interred in the Roseburg National Cemetery Annex columbarium.
Douglas County Veterans Forum President Larry Hill said at Tuesday’s ceremony that the members of every military branch know that no one is to be left behind.
“These veterans being honored here today were left in dark, dank, moldy, dusty, dirty conditions, in a cold crypt or attic for periods ranging from a little over two decades to over 44 years or longer,” he said. While there, he said, the situation of the formerly lost veterans’ remains were parallel to that of a soldier missing in action or a prisoner of war.
“They too are missing, they too are unable to be with loved ones, they too are unable to join their comrades in arms in their final resting place. I therefore accord them all the love, honor and respect given to a returning POW,” Hill said.
Douglas County Veterans Service Office Director Mary Newman-Keyes was designated the official next of kin for the veterans, and gave a eulogy for the veterans based on information pieced together from obituaries.
Adam S. Heussner was born in Ohio in 1898. He served in the Navy as a seaman apprentice during World War I. He married Esther Downing in 1927 and had a son Earl. In 1945, he moved to Myrtle Creek and was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He died March 8, 1975, in a Roseburg hospital at age 76
Archie James Miller was born in Missouri in Nov. 6, 1892. He served as a private in the Army infantry during World War 1. He and his wife Nell lived in Sutherlin, where they were members of the Neighborhood Church of Christ and the Roseburg American Legion. He died July 31, 1975, aged 82.
Harley J. Dean was born in Iowa on Nov. 20, 1899 but grew up in Tiller, Drew and Days Creek. In World War I he enlisted and served as a private in the Army infantry. In World War II, he was drafted by the Army at the age of 42, and served again. He married Lelah Fugate in 1952 and the two of them lived in Sutherlin. He died Nov. 15, 1983, aged 83.
William L. Roughcore was born in Missouri Sept. 9, 1895. He served in the Army Air Service. On Dec. 5, 1917 he was shipped out of Hoboken, New Jersey as a private and was assigned to an Army Aero Squadron in France. While serving there, he was promoted to corporal and was a chauffeur first class. He returned to the United States in 1919. He and his wife Lucille had two children, Mary and William, and in 1942 he moved to Umpqua and later to Roseburg. He was a member of the First United Methodist Church, the Roseburg Masonic Lodge and a lifelong member of the American Legion. He died Apr. 5, 1982, aged 86.
In April, the remains were transferred to the courthouse in a room near the Veterans Service Office where Newman-Keyes works. Before that happened, and before anyone outside of a small committee knew about the plan to store the remains there, Newman-Keyes said a friend contacted her and told her about a dream.
“She said that in her dream there was another room in a hallway across from our office. She said she heard people talking there, so she went to that room and stood at the door,” Newman-Keyes said. Newman-Keyes said she was astounded because her friend described the exact location of the room in which the remains were soon to be kept.
“She stated that inside the room there were a lot of veterans, and they were standing in groups talking to each other,” she said.
Only then did Newman-Keyes tell her friend about the plan. Her friend then said, “Well just so you know, in my dream all the veterans in that room were really, really happy.”
Newman-Keyes also said she was reminded of the lyrics of the song “Amazing Grace.”
“These lyrics seemed to fit these forgotten veterans. They had not seen light for many years. They were lost but they’ve been found, and certainly grace has led them home,” she said.
An eight-bell ceremony was performed by Maria Castro, vice president of the local American Women Veterans Association chapter, followed by Honor Guard services from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2468 and Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 805. The service included rifle volleys, the playing of “Taps” and a flag folding ceremony, with the flags handed to Newman-Keyes.
Upon receiving the flags, Newman-Keyes gave one each to Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman and Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs Director Kelly Fitzpatrick for their assistance with the project.
The veterans’ remains were carried out by local members of the Army National Guard Charlie Company.
Veterans Forum member Jim Little, who led the service, said afterward he was pleased with the turnout.
“It’s very heart touching. It’s hard to keep control of my emotions,” he said.
Hunt said she felt a lot of relief and some tears.
“I think we’re on the right track. Two more days and we’ll have them done,” she said.
Shannon said she was happy Hunt had been able to continue the project after she retired.
“Our veterans deserve this and more,” she said.
Newman-Keyes said she felt both happy and sad at the end of the service.
“I was happy to do it, and I know these veterans are happy, and sad that it took so long for this to happen,” she said.