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Burial for Minnesota Sailor Killed in Pearl Harbor Attack

Justin LaBounty WJON
Justin LaBounty WJON

Holdingford, MN (WJON News) – It took 76 years, but Navy Fireman First Class Elmer Kerestes’ family was finally able to properly lay him to rest.

On Saturday thousands of people lined the journey from the funeral home in Melrose to his final resting place at Highland Cemetery in Holdingford. Kerestes was killed in action on December 7th, 1941 during the attacks on Pearl Harbor, while he was aboard the USS Oklahoma.

Until earlier this year, Kerestes was one of many unidentified remains uncovered by Navy personnel. Through DNA testing, officials were able to determine that these remains were that of Elmer Kerestes.

Dick Thill of St. Paul, one of the last remaining survivors of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, was personally invited to the ceremony. Though Thill did not know Kerestes, he still couldn’t hold back his emotion when seeing his fellow Navy brother come home.
“I was so proud to be here to see what a magnificient thing happened here today. I coudn’t help it but I had tears of joy in a way, and tears of sadness. I didn’t know him personally but he was one of us at Pearl Harbor.”

Kerestes’s homecoming drew so many people that Thill even said it felt like he was getting the recognition that he deserved.
“I’m glad to see him getting acknowledged and really getting a reward. I know he is up there in Heaven.”

Family members of the Kerestes said they were “amazed” and “without words” because of the out pouring of support from the community.

Story by By Justin LaBounty, WJON News

 

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