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'They kept Elmer with all of us': Kentucky soldier who died in Pearl Harbor finally coming home

Elmer Lawrence died on the United States Ship Oklahoma during the Pearl Harbor attack{ }on Dec. 7, 1941. (WZTV)
Elmer Lawrence died on the United States Ship Oklahoma during the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941. (WZTV)
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A Barren County, Kentucky sailor who died in Pearl Harbor is finally coming home.

Elmer Lawrence died on the United States Ship Oklahoma during the Pearl Harbor attack.

Eighty two years ago, a handsome sailor died on that awful day. His surviving family never gave up hope of bringing him home to his small town in Red Cross, Kentucky in Barren County.

He was the oldest of all the boys in his big family when he enlisted at 23. Everyone was so proud.

He left behind that big family and his pretty sweetheart, local teacher Marie Copas. Then came the shocking news; Dead at 25, entombed in the capsized USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

“It broke everybody’s heart, even though none of us, hardly any of us alive now knew him, but we knew him because they kept his memory alive," said his cousin Sheila Lawrence. "They kept Elmer with all of us."

Nashville singer-songwriter Sheila Lawrence fought long and hard to bring cousin Elmer home.

She began in 2010 when the Navy started doing DNA testing in the Punch Bowl cemetery in Hawaii.

The hundreds of unmarked graves of anonymous veterans. She actually visited the punch bowl.

“And when we drove in I started having multiple cold chills and I told daddy he’s there," said Lawrence. "I know he is thereand he said we never heard anything about that."

She was right. Elmer’s remains were identified in 2021.

Sheila’s dad did not live to see his cousin home. But Sheila never stopped fighting.

He belonged in Barren County with the rest of his family; A family that still has strong ties there.

“It was important to my dad," said Lawrence. "My dad was three years younger than Elmer and he really thought he was the bee’s knees."

In fact, in her dad’s dying days, it was cousin Elmer he was talking with.

“Daddy said to me, did you see Elmer?" said Lawrence. "Oh, you missed him. He was here and we got to talk and I said that’s great, so I have to think Elmer was helping him crossover..That was part of it. You helped my dad, we are going to help you."

Elmer’s remains arrived in Louisville where he received a full honor guard. His temporary marker will be replaced with his own marker, and his own hallowed spot in the Barren County earth.

After 82 years, Elmer Lawrence is home

The funeral is at the Shiloh General Baptist Church in Railton, Kentucky at 2:30pm. this Saturday.

By the way, that pretty school teacher, never did marry.

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