Sailor killed in Pearl Harbor attack laid to rest in Ontonagon

MEMBERS OF THE U.S. Navy lay Lowell E. Valley to rest with full military honors in a Saturday ceremony at Holy Family Catholic Cemetery in Ontonagon. (Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette)

ONTONAGON — Seventy-six years after his death in the attack at Pearl Harbor, Navy Fireman 2nd Class Lowell E. Valley returned home Saturday to his final resting place.

Valley was buried with full military honors at the Holy Family Catholic cemetery to an outpouring of military and community support.

The 19-year-old Lowell served aboard the USS Oklahoma during the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack and has long remained among the unidentified.

“We made it,” brother Bob Valley said. “…The first thing I said when they called me (was), ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.'”

For 20 years, Bob Valley had been working to identify USS Oklahoma sailors and their families with the USS Oklahoma Survivors and Family group.

Members of the U.S. Navy honor guard fire a three-volley salute for Navy Fireman 2nd Class Lowell E. Valley. (Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette)

He focused on identifying a group of 27 sailors starting in 1998. The dead had been identified using dental records, but this information was not made public, leaving them among the unidentified.

All 27 have been located, and only one has yet to be reburied. With his brother home and task complete, Valley expects his role will soon be over.

Valley is now the only living member of the family, but his own and his sister’s children were there to honor the uncle they never knew.

“We never thought this day would ever come,” said Valley’s daughter, Sharon Valley Nelson.

She was happy to see him return home to Ontonagon after all this time. Several family members gave DNA samples to help identify Lowell and bring him home.

The last family photo with Navy Fireman 2nd Class Lowell E. Valley before his death in the Pearl Harbor attack shows his mother, Mary Anne Valley, left; Lowell, center; sister Lillian Valley, right; and young Bob Valley, in front. (Photo provided by Samantha Valley)

“The closure was nice. Grandma struggled,” said Joan Cassidy Osterman, daughter of Lowell’s sister, Lillian Valley, noting that her grandmother avoided talking about Lowell after his death.

“I think they would feel very comforted by the fact that he had been identified,” Osterman added.

Lowell was escorted to his final resting place by the Legion Riders, many of whom came from around the Upper Peninsula.

“We’re all ex-military to begin with. It’s just an honor to see somebody that they (the family) lost. They didn’t know what happened and to have him come home to rest is just an honor,” said Richard Wood of Little Lake.

“I do everything I can to give back, especially to those who are no longer with us,” added Carl Aho, also from the Legion Riders.

Military honors were conducted by several members of the U.S. Navy who volunteered to make the trip and lay Lowell to rest.

“When the Navy has such a significant event we try to honor appropriately,” said Rear Adm. Katherine McCabe. “… It’s just the right thing to do. They’ve waited so long. It’s the least we can do.”

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