Remains of Minnesota WWII vet laid to rest outside Seattle

The Associated Press

CHISHOLM, Minn. — The remains of a Minnesota native and World War II veteran have been laid to rest in Washington state 65 years after his death.

U.S. Air Force Capt. John Ponikvar of Chisholm died in a plane crash in 1952, KARE-TV reported. Ponikvar’s plane veered off course and crashed into Mount Gannett in Alaska. Weather delayed rescue efforts and the men on the aircraft where entombed under ice and snow.

“Sixty-five years, that’s a lifetime for a lot of people,” said Janie Fowler, Ponikvar’s daughter. “I’m just lucky I lived long enough for it to happen.”

Fowler was 7 years old when her father died.

“We were coming home from church and we heard it on the radio,” Fowler said. “I can just remember sitting in the car and my mom crying.”

Fowler and her mother left the air base in Alaska and moved to Seattle to be with family. Ponikvar’s family arranged for a stone to be placed at Chisholm’s Calvary Cemetery.

A National Guard crew discovered parts of the plane in 2012 and reignited the search for the remains. Searchers have uncovered 37 of 52 servicemen. Ponikvar’s remains were found in 2016.

“I think we have made a promise to wives, children, husbands that if they were to die while in the service wherever they’re at, we’re going to bring them home,” said Allen Cronin, an Air Force funeral director who heads up the recovery operation.

Ponikvar was buried in a cemetery outside of Seattle on what would have been his 95th birthday.

He was buried next to his wife, who died in 1994. The McChord Field Honor Guard provided funeral honors. Fowler was presented with a folded American flag.

“We brought everything to a close,” Fowler said after the service. “And we’ll just carry on from here.”

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