Lt. William Lewis, who died when his P-51 fighter was shot down in Germany on Sept. 11, 1944, will be laid to rest Friday alongside his brother in a Tulsa cemetery.
The Army pilot's remains were exhumed from a field near Oberhof by a U.S. recovery team that spent a month excavating the site. The remains were analyzed at the Army identification laboratory in Hawaii, and two months ago a final report was delivered to Lewis' daughter, Sharon Cross of Houston.
"He'd been there ... 58 years, and I thought maybe I should leave well enough alone," Cross said. "But a retired military man told me, 'No soldier wants his bones left in a foreign country. You bring him home.' So that's what we've done."
A farmer, Adelbert Wolf, buried Lewis after the crash, marked the grave and tended to the site for decades. About a decade before the fall of the Berlin Wall, a U.S. delegation was allowed to visit the site after Wolf notified an American about the grave, but the delegation was not allowed to exhume the body.
Finally, in 2002, a U.S. recovery team was allowed to excavate the site.
Sharon Cross was born in April 1944 while her father was away in training. He returned home for a visit in May 1944 before heading for England.
She said she has been told her father had a great sense of humor.
"He loved baseball," she said. "Always wanted to be a fighter pilot. He was an absolutely beautiful man, very popular in school, from what I've been told. He was definitely the love of my mother's life. People tell me I look like him."
Services for Lewis, a graduate of Tulsa Central High School, will be at 2 p.m. Friday at Memorial Park Cemetery Chapel. His remains were expected to arrive Tuesday from Hawaii.
Lewis' final resting place will be alongside his brother, Ted, who died Sept. 30, 1944, in a bomber crash near Walla Walla, Wash.
In the same month, Nola Lewis, Sharon Cross' grandmother, lost both her sons, her only children.
Alongside Ted Lewis' grave marker at the Tulsa cemetery is a stone long-reserved for Bill Lewis, inscribed "Missing in Action."
Lewis' services will include full military honors, with two flyovers.
"I want it to be a joyous occasion," Cross said. "It's time, after 60 years."
Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.oklahoman.com