Remains Of Utah Man Killed In Pearl Harbor Attacks Finally Return Home

Jun 1, 2021, 7:03 PM | Updated: 8:38 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — After nearly 80 years, the remains of a Utah man killed and missing from the attacks on Pearl Harbor have returned home.

You often see people at the Salt Lake City International Airport wearing leis around their necks. Usually, it’s for a trip to Hawaii.

“Aloha!” said Sharon Senecal as she put a lei over another family members neck. “Here we go!”

For one family, though, they weren’t going to Hawaii. Instead, they were welcoming someone home from Hawaii, someone who has been gone for nearly 80 years.

“Today is a very special day,” said Senecal. “He joined the Navy in 1940.”

Senecal was talking about her uncle, Theodore Jensen, who was killed during the attacks at Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Jensen grew up in Sutherland in Millard County and graduated from Delta High School.

He was serving on the USS Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked the American military base.

Jensen’s body was never found.

“We were told he was missing in action, then a few weeks later, they said he was killed in action; then two years later, they said his remains were unknown,” said Senecal, who was five years old at the time. “Then, in about 1949, they sent us a note and said there is no possibility of you ever having any remains of this fallen hero. So, in 1949, we just said he’s gone.”

Of course, the family always wondered what happened to Uncle Theo.

“My aunts and uncles, mother and father, all really missed him and really found it hard to accept the fact he was gone,” said Theo Brasher, one of Jensen’s nephews.

Brasher was born a couple years after Jensen died and was named after him.

“I have always considered it an honor,” he said.

A few months ago, the family got a call from the U.S. Navy about identifying remains they had found.

“I couldn’t believe it. I said, ‘Oh my, this is a scam,’” said Senecal with a laugh.

Sure enough, using DNA samples from family, Jensen’s remains were identified.

The Navy also made plans to bring him back home to Delta.

“It’s something we always wanted, but just never figured it was going to happen,” said John Jensen, who is another one of Jensen’s nephews.

The family gathered at the Salt Lake City International Airport Tuesday afternoon to welcome him home.

Airport security and operations workers escorted them onto the tarmac, and when a Southwest Airlines flights pulled into gate B-20, the family couldn’t believe Jensen was home.

“I don’t know how to put into words how we feel,” said John Jensen. “We’re just, we’re over the moon.”

After the family said a quick prayer over his American flag-draped casket, members of the U.S. Navy carried him into a hearse.

From there, a procession of Utah Highway Patrol, Millard County Sheriff’s Office, the Patriot Guard Riders and family members traveled to Delta.

A memorial service has been planned for Wednesday afternoon. After that, Jensen will be buried in the Delta Cemetery, next to the American Legion Post that was named after him several years ago.

“It was just an amazing feat to all of a sudden say, ‘Here he is! He’s home,'” said Senecal. “We don’t have to worry about where he was — did he stay on the ship? Did he get off the ship? Where was he? He’s home.”

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Remains Of Utah Man Killed In Pearl Harbor Attacks Finally Return Home