- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
When Ruth Reynolds, 91, remembers growing up alongside her “adventurous” cousin, Joseph Gantt, on Sixes Road in Prince Frederick, she said she feels “blessed” to know he’s been returned to the U.S. — 63 years after he was officially classified as “missing in action” during the Korean War.
The two spent their childhoods living in the same household, going to school and playing together like siblings, Reynolds said, before Gantt moved to Baltimore when he was about 12 in the mid-1930s.
“He had a mind that one day he would like to be away from Calvert County and see the world,” Reynolds said.
And he was able to do just that. Gantt enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942 before meeting his wife, Clara, whom he married June 15, 1948, according to an obituary in his funeral program. Then, during the Korean War, Sgt. 1st Class Gantt was taken as a prisoner of war Dec. 1, 1950, and died as a prisoner about four months later at the age of 26.
His family, however, as well as his wife, spent more than 60 years not knowing what had happened to him, until his remains were discovered and retuned to the U.S. at the end of 2013.
Theresa Miles, Reynolds’ sister, who now lives on Oxnard, Calif., read the news that the remains of a soldier who shared her maiden name had been identified in her local newspaper.
“When I read the article in the paper, all I could do was grab the phone and start to dial it,” Miles said.
Miles called her two sisters, Reynolds and Edith Commodore, who live in St. Leonard and Port Republic, respectively. The three then called Clara Gantt, Joseph’s widow, whom they had never met, and who, until that day, they hadn’t even known was still living.
After introducing themselves to Clara, who was 94, the sisters discovered she lived in Inglewood, Calif., about 65 miles from where Miles lives.
So, as a representative for her family in Maryland, Miles attended the Dec. 28, 2013, memorial service for her cousin, where she connected with Clara, who had never remarried, choosing to instead wait for her husband to return home.
At the ceremony, Miles presented Clara with a letter Joseph Gantt had written to an aunt in Baltimore in 1950, while he was overseas fighting the war. In the letter, Gantt wrote that nothing had happened to him yet, that he was praying for his fellow soldiers and that he hoped to visit his family in Baltimore when he returned home.
In return, Clara gave Miles copies of a dog tag that was made after the remains had been found. On the front of the tag, there is a picture of Gantt in his uniform. The other side holds his identifying information as well as some important dates: KIA/MIA Korea 12/01/50, RETURNED HOME 12/20/13.
“It was so beautiful,” Miles said. “I had to meet her at the church. I had to wait my turn before she was surrounded by so many people.”
Although the return of her husband’s remains has caused a flurry of activity in Clara’s life, Miles said she told her she wants to come to Calvert County, where she’s never been, so she can meet her late husband’s family.
If and when that happens, Commodore said she and other family members will sit down with Gantt’s widow, tell stories and “talk nonstop.”
“[We will] let her know that we’ve been waiting for her, also,” Commodore said. “We’re glad she was alive to endure what went down.”