Share This Page

Armstrong Co. sergeant gets proper funeral 62 years after his death

| Friday, July 4, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
The casket with the remains of Air Force Staff Sgt. James Ray is carried into the F. Duane Snyder Funeral Home in Worthington in July. The local airman died in a plane crash in Alaska 62 years ago, but only last year were his remains found and identified.
Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
Brother Richard Ray stands with James Ray's daughter, Jamie Ray Swift, as her father's casket is carried in to the F. Duane Snyder Funeral Home in Worthington on Thursday, July 3, 2014.
Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
A hearse carrying the remain of Air Force Staff Sgt. James Ray is escorted on Bear Road in Worthington en route to the F. Duane Snyder Funeral Home on Thursday, July 3, 2014.
Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
Jamie Ray Swift reunites with her uncle Richard Ray, after transporting the remains of her father, Air Force Staff Sgt. James Ray, to the F. Duane Snyder Funeral Home in Worthington on Thursday, July 3, 2014.

Air Force Staff Sgt. James Herbert Ray will get a military burial in his hometown of Worthington on Saturday — 62 years after his death in a plane crash in Alaska.

Ray was 36 when the C-124 Globemaster plane went down on a glacier with 35 other servicemen near Anchorage on Nov. 22, 1952. All of the servicemen were listed as missing until the Department of Defense in June announced that remains of 17 of the victims had been recovered and identified at the crash site.

Ray returned home on Thursday in a silver hearse led by several police cars and a Worthington fire truck with sirens wailing. About a dozen of his family members — flanked by a small group of veterans armed with flags — lined Bear Street in front of the F. Duane Snyder Funeral Home as the procession arrived.

“He's home,” said his brother, Richard of Indiana. “Whatever is left of him is finally home. I feel comfort knowing he will be laid to rest at home.”

Ray's only daughter, Jaime Ray Swift, of Pensacola, Fla., got out of a silver sedan just in time to see funeral directors opening the hearse. She had escorted her father from Honolulu — where he had been identified — to Worthington.

The family watched in silence, except for a few quiet sobs, as several state troopers and an Air Force representative lifted Ray's casket, draped in an American flag, out of the hearse and carried it into the funeral home, where viewing will take place Saturday morning.

The military burial after the viewing will include a 21-gun salute and tribute to Ray from the Andrews Air Force Base Honor Guard from Washington, D.C., and the Armstrong Honor Guard.

“It's been a long wait for a lot of people, but he's finally home, where he deserves to be,” Swift said. “He's with his family ... where he belongs.”

Swift never met her father ­— he died three months before she was born.

“I've been crying every day for two months. I'm surprised I have any tears left,” Swift said. “It's all well worth it, because it's brought closure to so many people who loved him.”

Ray's nephew, Daryl, who said his uncle was known as “Herb” to family members, agreed.

“We just wanted to know what really happened to that plane. We always wondered if they'd ever find it,” he said.

“Now we know. And as bittersweet as this all is, we're glad Herb is home.”

Ray will be buried near his parents, James Sr. and Mary, in Worthington United Presbyterian Cemetery. That's something his brother never believed he'd see happen.

“Those 62 years were so long that I didn't really have too much hope,” he said. “It was a foregone conclusion nothing would happen until — bingo — they tell you they found him. I tried to wrap my head around it, and I still haven't.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.