An Indiana man who died in World War II will be laid to rest in Butler County on Memorial Day. Thomas Murphy died in the battle for Tarawa. He was buried on the Pacific Ocean island but the grave was lost until 2015.
His niece, Chantel Oliver of Fairfield, says she never met her paternal uncle and didn't know much about him growing up.
"We lost my dad in 1990. Then in 2011 my mother passed away and I was going through her dresser drawer and I came across a little tattered cardboard box with no lid, but with a purple rectangle box inside," Oliver says. "I opened it up and it was a Purple Heart. I turned it over and it said 'Thomas Jesse Murphy' and that was my dad's brother's name. I was just shocked!"
Oliver says she, her sister and two brothers grew up not knowing Murphy's story. She says it's a generational difference. "None of us knew him or even heard his name mentioned. Just one of those things, when heartbreak shook the family like this, you just put it away and never spoke of it again."
Oliver says the Navy told her a man building on his property in 2015 uncovered a lost cemetery. "Had that guy not needed a place to park his car, several families would still not know where their loved ones ended up. And it's kind of funny but it really brings closure for a lot of us."
Murphy's body arrives at CVG on Friday. The Patriot Guards will escort the procession to Zettler Funeral Home in Hamilton. Visitation is scheduled on Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. Burial services are Monday, May 28, at 11 a.m. at Greenwood Cemetery.