Urns containing the cremated remains of World War II veterans found...

Urns containing the cremated remains of World War II veterans found in a closet at the Hungerford & Clark Funeral Home in Freeport. Credit: John Scalesi

The cremated remains of seven World War II veterans and the spouse of one — for decades, languishing unclaimed in a Freeport funeral home storage closet — are now in more fitting final resting places.

Urns containing the remains of six of the veterans and the one spouse are now interred at the Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale. An urn containing the remains of a seventh World War II vet has been returned to his family.

All of the remains were found inside a storage closet at the Hungerford & Clark Funeral Home in Freeport after new owners took over in late 2021, according to one of the owners, Michael Carpinone.

The veterans' remains, identified only by their names and branches, had been at the funeral home after they were cremated and went unclaimed by relatives.

On Tuesday, funeral home officials presented seven of the urns to the national cemetery for interment during a ceremony.

“I knew we needed to get them back to their families and the National Cemetery,” Carpinone said. “They were part of such a great generation. They helped build this country, and it was such a shame they were in a storage room after they fought for this country.”

The veterans were identified as: Willard Thomas Burkett Jr., William J. Daube, William Kuttler, Thorwald Otto and Jack Zvaleko, all of the U.S. Army. Also interred was Otto Schilling of the U.S. Navy. The remains of Thorwald Otto's wife, Florence Otto, were also recovered.

The remains of Army Maj. William Beveridge, were returned to his family.

After attempting and only sometimes succeeding at finding surviving relatives, the funeral home and one of its directors, Lincoln McLean, contacted the Long Island National Cemetery.

“It’s an honor to provide a final resting place for those veterans and to provide the family closure,” said the cemetery’s director, Jeff Travis.

Some of the veterans' documents included discharge paperwork, Carpinone said. He also contacted the National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri, for records. Some family members contacted by the funeral home lived too far away. Other attempts ended with old addresses or disconnected telephone numbers.

“Nobody ever came to get them. Attempts were made with certified letters and nobody ever came,” Carpinone said. “We wanted to make sure they were honored in their final resting place.”

Little was known about the veterans outside of what was found in their discharge papers.

Thorwald Otto, originally from Rockville Centre, enlisted in the Army when he was 40, in 1942, and served about two years before being discharged, according to Census records. He married Florence three months after enlisting. The couple had a son, and Otto worked as a beverage sales manager. The family lived in Freeport. Florence Otto was 64 when she died in 1969. Her husband died at age 71 in 1973.

Daube was born in the Bronx in 1914. He was working as a police officer when he enlisted in 1942. He was 74 in 1988 and a Freeport resident when he died, according to records.

Burkett was born in Brooklyn and joined the Army at 27 while living in St. Albans, Queens, according to his draft card listed on Ancestry.com.

In 1943, Zvaleko was 26 and living in New York City when he enlisted. He got married in Hempstead in 1962 and died in 1990 at the age of 73, records show.

A draft card for William Kuttler shows he enlisted when he was 18 while living in Queens in 1943. He married Marie in Brooklyn in 1951 and died in Freeport in 2002 at the age of 77.

A prayer, a 21-gun salute and a rendition of “Taps” were part of Tuesday's ceremony for the vets, which ended with their ashes placed in the cemetery's columbarium for storage in a vault listing their names.

Kuttler’s granddaughter was presented with an American flag in recognition of his service. The cemetery was able to reach a few relatives, who were unable to attend the ceremony, but gave their blessing for the cemetery to accept the remains, Travis said.

Ralph Esposito, director of Nassau Veterans Services, said it was important to honor the veterans regardless of how long it took.

“Veterans don’t forget, and we make sure no one gets left behind, even if we find them 50 to 60 years later,” Esposito said. “These are our brothers who are gone and they deserve to be put to rest, not laying on a shelf. They served their country and should be recognized.”

The cremated remains of seven World War II veterans and the spouse of one — for decades, languishing unclaimed in a Freeport funeral home storage closet — are now in more fitting final resting places.

Urns containing the remains of six of the veterans and the one spouse are now interred at the Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale. An urn containing the remains of a seventh World War II vet has been returned to his family.

All of the remains were found inside a storage closet at the Hungerford & Clark Funeral Home in Freeport after new owners took over in late 2021, according to one of the owners, Michael Carpinone.

Unclaimed by relatives

The veterans' remains, identified only by their names and branches, had been at the funeral home after they were cremated and went unclaimed by relatives.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • The cremated remains of six World War II veterans are now in the possession of the Long Island National Cemetery.
  • For decades, the remains, and those of a seventh World War II vet, had languished in a Freeport funeral home storage closet.
  • On Tuesday, a ceremony at the cemetery honored the vets with prayers and a 21-gun salute.

On Tuesday, funeral home officials presented seven of the urns to the national cemetery for interment during a ceremony.

“I knew we needed to get them back to their families and the National Cemetery,” Carpinone said. “They were part of such a great generation. They helped build this country, and it was such a shame they were in a storage room after they fought for this country.”

The veterans were identified as: Willard Thomas Burkett Jr., William J. Daube, William Kuttler, Thorwald Otto and Jack Zvaleko, all of the U.S. Army. Also interred was Otto Schilling of the U.S. Navy. The remains of Thorwald Otto's wife, Florence Otto, were also recovered.

The remains of Army Maj. William Beveridge, were returned to his family.

Search for records

After attempting and only sometimes succeeding at finding surviving relatives, the funeral home and one of its directors, Lincoln McLean, contacted the Long Island National Cemetery.

“It’s an honor to provide a final resting place for those veterans and to provide the family closure,” said the cemetery’s director, Jeff Travis.

Some of the veterans' documents included discharge paperwork, Carpinone said. He also contacted the National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri, for records. Some family members contacted by the funeral home lived too far away. Other attempts ended with old addresses or disconnected telephone numbers.

“Nobody ever came to get them. Attempts were made with certified letters and nobody ever came,” Carpinone said. “We wanted to make sure they were honored in their final resting place.”

Not much known

Little was known about the veterans outside of what was found in their discharge papers.

Thorwald Otto, originally from Rockville Centre, enlisted in the Army when he was 40, in 1942, and served about two years before being discharged, according to Census records. He married Florence three months after enlisting. The couple had a son, and Otto worked as a beverage sales manager. The family lived in Freeport. Florence Otto was 64 when she died in 1969. Her husband died at age 71 in 1973.

Daube was born in the Bronx in 1914. He was working as a police officer when he enlisted in 1942. He was 74 in 1988 and a Freeport resident when he died, according to records.

Burkett was born in Brooklyn and joined the Army at 27 while living in St. Albans, Queens, according to his draft card listed on Ancestry.com.

In 1943, Zvaleko was 26 and living in New York City when he enlisted. He got married in Hempstead in 1962 and died in 1990 at the age of 73, records show.

A draft card for William Kuttler shows he enlisted when he was 18 while living in Queens in 1943. He married Marie in Brooklyn in 1951 and died in Freeport in 2002 at the age of 77.

Fitting tribute

A prayer, a 21-gun salute and a rendition of “Taps” were part of Tuesday's ceremony for the vets, which ended with their ashes placed in the cemetery's columbarium for storage in a vault listing their names.

Kuttler’s granddaughter was presented with an American flag in recognition of his service. The cemetery was able to reach a few relatives, who were unable to attend the ceremony, but gave their blessing for the cemetery to accept the remains, Travis said.

Ralph Esposito, director of Nassau Veterans Services, said it was important to honor the veterans regardless of how long it took.

“Veterans don’t forget, and we make sure no one gets left behind, even if we find them 50 to 60 years later,” Esposito said. “These are our brothers who are gone and they deserve to be put to rest, not laying on a shelf. They served their country and should be recognized.”

World War II veterans laid to rest at Long Island National Cemetery 

Thorwald Otto and his wife Florence Otto — U.S. Army

Otto Schilling U.S. Navy

Jack Zvaleko U.S. Army

Willard Thomas Burkett U.S. Army

William J. Daube U.S. Army

William Kuttler U.S. Army

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