CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — As of Monday night, Jim Powell’s Chesapeake family can sleep better knowing his final resting place is among those who also served their country.
Powell’s body sat in a funeral home for more than two weeks, his widow unable to find documents proving his discharge from the U.S. Air Force. That’s because a fire destroyed tens of thousands of records in Saint Louis in 1973, including Powell’s.
So, 10 On Your Side joined the family’s struggle to get their loved one buried in a military cemetery. Based on our research, we estimated Powell’s date of discharge to be sometime in 1958. We also received his service number, and those two pieces of information were enough to get Powell a fitting military burial.
The 81-year-old was buried with partial military honors at Albert Horton Memorial Veterans Cemetery. The Rev. Waverly Smith led the service with, “Well folks, we are gathered again, and it’s really a celebration this time.”
Rev. Smith was referring to Powell’s memorial service — a success after 18 days of waiting in limbo.
Patsy was presented with a flag, which an honor guard told her was for her husband’s faithful and honorable service. Patsy clutched the flag, and wept.
“I was just hugging him because he represents the flag, and I want to hug him, and it’s very emotional to be presented the flag. I love the flag,” Patsy said.
Patsy Powell is telling Jim Powell’s story because she wants to help other families be prepared: “People have got to get their lives in order. We didn’t expect him to go this soon, and we weren’t prepared. I wasn’t prepared. I’ve been trying for three years to get prepared for him.”
Powell married Patsy after his service in the USAF, and in his later years lost memory due to Alzheimer’s, and then a stroke. When he died Patsy was left scrambling amid her emotion to find the necessary paperwork to lay him to rest.
Burial Operations Manager at Albert Horton Memorial Veterans Cemetery, Susan Ulrich, said Patsy’s situation is typical: “Widows have told me they found [discharge papers and other vital documents] in between the sheets, in books, in freezers.”
Ulrich said veterans can help their families avoid such a hassles by getting a pre-application for interment before the time of death. You can download that form and find other information about that process by clicking here.
Thankfully, that process is over for the Powells. Jim is buried atop a hill, where Patsy will be buried next to him.
“I am elated,” Patsy Powell said. “I’m so thankful to 10 On Your Side for helping me. It’s been a long haul.”
Using Our estimation of Jim Powell’s departure date from the Air Force and his date of entry, Susan Ulrich assigns Powell’s departure rank at Sgt. E-4.