Remains of Minn. Navy Sailor Killed at Pearl Harbor Return Home

July 30, 2017 09:05 AM

(KSTP) - A Minnesota sailor killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor has now been laid to rest more than 76-years after his death.

Navy Fireman First Class Elmer Kerestes was buried Saturday near Holdingford in Stearns County.


Family members of this man say this gives them complete closure.

"He gave his life for our country," Janet Kerestes Klug, Elmer Kerestes' niece, said.

Kerestes was just 22 when he was killed on board the USS Oklahoma on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor. He was among the first Minnesotans to be killed during World War II.

"Many people had to lose their lives so we have freedom," Rosie Harren, who attended the procession Saturday morning, said. "It's always nice to come home no matter where you are."

For years, his remains went unidentified until a recent DNA test by the military confirmed his identity. Kerestes' family said this discovery still brings tears to their eyes.

"I'm at a loss for words almost," Kerestes Klug said. "Now he's here with us where it's really nice and peaceful."

Saturday morning friends, family members, veterans and even complete strangers showed up at the Highland Cemetery. They say it's a chance to honor this man for his service and welcome him home. 

"What a tribute to someone who gave the ultimate sacrifice," said Shirley Konsor, who attended Saturday's procession. "It's historical and yet it's very spiritual."

One of the last survivors of Pearl Harbor still alive today also attended the ceremony. Richard Thill said while it's horrible what happened that day, he's proud of Kerestes' service.

More than 400 Marines and Sailors died on the same battleship as Kerestes. Today, officials are still working to positively identify all the victims.


Brett Hoffland

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