WHITTIER, Calif. (AP) — An Air Force veteran whose body lay lost in the snow of an Alaskan glacier for six decades has been buried with military honors in California.
The remains of Engolf Welton Hagen were laid to rest on Friday near his parents’ grave at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier.
His youngest sister, 84-year-old Eleanor Yeager of Corona del Mar, attended the burial. She gingerly touched the box carrying his cremated rib, forearm and hand — all that could be recovered from the crash site.
The remains were identified through DNA supplied by Hagen’s oldest female relative — Eleanor’s sister Violet Wacker — who has since died.
Hagen, then a 28-year-old technical sergeant, died when a C-124 Globemaster carrying 52 passengers smashed into the Knik Glacier east of Anchorage during cloudy weather and exploded on Nov. 22,1952.
The wreckage fell onto the Colony Glacier and was covered with snow before the remains could be found.
The crash site was rediscovered on June 10, 2012, by an Alaskan Army National Guard helicopter crew during a training mission.
Eventually, 17 of the 52 victims were identified from recovered remains.
Hagen’s remains were held at a military facility in Hawaii. Yeager’s granddaughter, Lainie Johnson, and 18-year-old great-granddaughter, Kiere, retrieved Hagen’s cremated remains last weekend and the urn containing his ashes was flown to California.
Yeager says her brother was the sixth of 10 children who were raised on a farm in Roseau, Minnesota. She recalled him as a shy boy who liked to paint and read romance novels — and to get into snowball fights with his six sisters.
“He was always a great brother to me, a great companion,” she said.
Hagen and his three brothers enlisted during World War II. Hagen joined the Marines and was stationed in the South Pacific. He re-enlisted after the war in the Air Force.
“I guess he has always been alive in our hearts,” Yeager said. “I’m grieving his loss, again, after all these years. But, I’m so glad he is home – at last.”