WWII veteran's lost ashes honored during Gresham VFW ceremony
A veteran whose ashes had been lost for 14 years in an East Multnomah County storage container was given proper honors and burial by a group of local vets.
Gresham Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 180 member Bill Stone discovered an urn of ashes within an unclaimed storage unit while prepping it for auction. The urn had a name — Milton W. Walser — and a sticker on the bottom from a funeral home in California.
With support from Bateman-Carroll Funeral Home, a search began to discover Walser's surviving loved ones. They learned he was a retired Air Force chief master sergeant with family in Sacramento. Walser had moved to Gresham to live with his sister while battling an illness, before dying in 2008 at the age of 89.
The plan was for his sister to scatter his ashes somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, but she also died before accomplishing that goal. The storage unit belonged to her, and the extended family back in California never got around to scattering Walser's remains.
The VFW worked with the family to figure out a way to honor a fellow veteran — placing his ashes at Willamette National Cemetery because he loved the Pacific Northwest so much.
The service was held Monday afternoon, July 25, with the full VFW Post 180 honor guard and members of the Gresham VFW Post 180 Auxiliary. Bateman-Carroll will send a folded American flag, WWII commemorative coin, and pouch of three spent rifle cartridges to his family, who were unable to attend the service. At the ceremony, Stone accepted the folded flag on their behalf.
After all those years forgotten in a storage container, Walser was finally given the send-off he deserved.
Walser was a lifetime teacher, coach, writer, and one-time test pilot who was constantly seeking new ways to flex his creative desires.
As a teenager he worked as a soda jerk, and in 1938, at the age of 19, he was written up in Time Magazine as the founder of a progressive political group. He loved to write — from poetry to love letters for his wife Lyn. He penned a series of short stories, and crafted scripts for Oklahoma City Radio Mystery Theater in the early 1940s.
Walser served during World War II, first as a project photographer for the X-1 project at Muroc Air Station, then as a test pilot for the U.S. Army Air Corps at that same site, which was later re-named Edwards Air Force base. After the war, he shifted focus to become a meteorologist for the U.S. Air Force, going on to become a career non-commissioned officer.
Following his retirement from the Air Force, Walser taught high school in Tucson, Arizona.
Upon his death, his daughter credited Walser as being the "foundation" of the family. Now he is properly at rest thanks to the Gresham VFW.
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