Family welcomes home soldier 61 years after his death

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POSTED: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - 11:07pm

UPDATED: Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 4:59pm

A bittersweet homecoming more than 60 years in the making is finally coming to an end for the Fontenot family.

"She (our mother) prayed for a long, long time and finally her prayers got answered, and I am just glad I am here to see this," Barbara Noel, the sister of Joseph Fontenot, explained.

Sisters Barbara Noel and Melonie Picou are the last remaining siblings of Joseph Fontenot or J.W as they knew him. Their brother left their home near Gonzales as a soldier, it wasn’t until 1951 that they were informed their brother had died, months after being taken as a prisoner of war in Korea. The two never dreamed they would be laying him to rest in his hometown of Whitehall 60 years after his death.

"It was going to be a miracle if they found him. They gave us papers, all his army records and where they suspect they had buried him in a mass grave," Picou said.

But their brother J.W. was actually closer then they thought, buried in a grave in Hawaii as an unknown soldier. Though it's been decades since they said goodbye to their older brother and sent him off to war, the sisters still recall their last memories of him.

"Well we grew up on a farm, but he was always smiling, always happy," Noel said.

"Just as we were starting to get to know him, here they call him back out. and we ran in to the bedroom on the cot and cried, because we didn't know if he was ever going to come back again," Picou, who was just six when her brother left for the war, shared.

And though they never saw him alive again, both sisters are just happy to finally lay him to rest. It was a wish their mother kept alive until she died 20 years ago.

"Keep on trying to find his remains she [would tell us]. And put him at peace with the rest of the family in Whitehall. So that's what we did, and it's wonderful," Picou said.

Joseph Fontenot will be laid to rest in the Whitehall cemetery Saturday morning after a service at Ourso funeral home in Gonzales.

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