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Remains of Pearl Harbor sailors return home after 77 years

HONOLULU (AP) — More than 75 years after nearly 2,400 members of the U.S. military were killed in the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, some who died on Dec. 7, 1941, are finally being laid to rest in cemeteries across the United States.

In 2015, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency exhumed nearly 400 sets of remains from the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii after determining advances in forensic science and genealogical help from families could make identifications possible. They were all on the USS Oklahoma, which capsized during the attack, and had been buried as unknowns after the war.

Altogether, 429 sailors and Marines on the Oklahoma were killed. Only 35 were identified in the years immediately after the attack. The Oklahoma’s casualties were second only to the USS Arizona, which lost 1,177 men.

As of earlier this month, the agency has identified 186 sailors and Marines from the Oklahoma who were previously unidentified.

Slowly, the remains are being sent to be reburied in places like Traer, Iowa, and Ontanogan, Michigan.

Here’s a look at some of those who have either already been reburied this year or who will be interred on Friday:

Durell Wade

Wade was born in 1917 in the Hardin Town community of rural Calhoun County, Mississippi. He enlisted in the Navy in 1936 and in 1940 re-enlisted for another two-year tour.

His burial in his home state was originally planned for a weekend, when it would be more convenient for people to attend. But because of scheduling conflicts at the North Mississippi Veterans Memorial Cemetery, his family decided the 77th anniversary of the attack would be an appropriate date, even if some people have to take time off, said his nephew, Dr. Lawrence Wade.

He was one of the sailor’s relatives who provided DNA to help identify him.

“My middle name is his name, Durell. My grandson has that name also,” said the 75-year-old retired psychiatrist from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “I’d gone through my life not really knowing anything about him, other than I carried his name and he was killed at Pearl Harbor. Once this DNA process came along and made it possible to identify his remains, it just made him much more of a real person to me.”

Wade’s siblings included four older sisters and one older brother, according to a bio prepared by his nephew. The Wade children were educated by two teachers hired by their parents to live in the home and teach them until a community school was built on donated property. Wade had written home in September 1941 that he had just taken promotion tests from Aviation Machinist Mate 2nd Class to Chief Aviation Machinist Mate.

His nephew has been planning his funeral. A gospel singer will sing the national anthem. Bagpipes will play. Pilots will conduct a flyover. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and Capt. Brian Hortsman, commanding officer of Naval Air Station Meridian, will make remarks.

William Bruesewitz

Renate Starck has been pondering the eulogy she’ll give at the funeral for her uncle, Navy Seaman 1st Class William Bruesewitz, on Friday.

“We always have thought of him on Dec. 7,” she said. “He’s already such a big part of that history.”

Bruesewitz, of Appleton, Wisconsin, will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C. “It’s a real blessing to have him returning and we’ve chosen Arlington because we feel he’s a hero and belongs there,” Starck said.

About 50 family members from Wisconsin, Florida, Arkansas and Maryland will attend.

“We were too young to know him but we’re old enough that we felt his loss,” Starck said. “We know some stories. There’s this stoicness about things from that time that kept people from talking about things that hurt.”

Bruesewitz’s mother died in childbirth when he was 6 or 7, Starck said. Her father and Bruesewitz were close brothers. When Bruesewitz was 14, they built barns in Wisconsin, Starck said. They were educated in Lutheran schools.

William Kvidera

Hundreds of people filled a Catholic church in Traer, Iowa, in November for William Kvidera’s funeral.

The solemn ceremony in his hometown included full military honors.

“It’s something like a dream,” his brother, John Kvidera, 91, said.

John Kvidera was 14 when he found out about the bombings at Pearl Harbor and remembers huddling around a radio to find out what was going on. The family initially received a telegram saying William, the oldest of six siblings, was missing in action.

A telegram in February 1943 notified the family of his death.

Robert K. Holmes

The remains of Marine Pfc. Robert Kimball Holmes were interred in August in his hometown of Salt Lake City.

“It’s strange, isn’t it, to be here honoring a 19-year-old kid killed 77 years ago,” nephew Bruce Holmes said.

Only one person in attendance at the graveside services — another nephew and namesake Bob Holmes — had any personal memories of the Marine.

The younger Bob is now more than four times older as the sailor when he died. He remembers his uncle coming home on leave in the summer of 1941 when he was 6 years old.

Bob Holmes recalled talking to a friend of his uncle who served with him on the Oklahoma: “He said, ‘One of the things that I remember most about Bob is that he had this attitude. Not just a Marine attitude, but a Holmes boy attitude — defiance, aggression and don’t-mess-with-me.”

Lowell Valley

For 20 years, Navy Fireman 2nd Class Lowell Valley’s brother worked to identify USS Oklahoma sailors.

Now that Valley has been identified and his remains have been returned home to Ontonagon, Michigan, Bob Valley expects his role in helping identify a group of 27 sailors will soon be over. All 27 have been located.

Lowell Valley was buried at the Holy Family Catholic cemetery in July.

Leon Arickx

More than 76 years after he died, the remains of Navy Seaman 1st Class Leon Arickx were buried on a brilliant summer day at a small cemetery amid the cornfields of northern Iowa.

Hundreds gathered in July for Arickx’s graveside service at Sacred Heart Cemetery outside Osage, Iowa, in a sparsely populated farming region just south of Minnesota, where Arickx grew up. Among them was his niece, Janice Schonrock, who was a baby when Arickx died.

“My family talked about him all that time,” said Schonrock, 77. “I felt I knew him because everyone talked about him.”

Although they didn’t have Arickx’s remains, his family held a memorial service and placed a grave marker at Sacred Heart Cemetery in 1942. When his remains were finally returned, they were buried at a site not far away.

Schonrock said her family appreciates the work it took to identify her uncle, but she believes it’s essential to identify as many service members as possible.

“I think we need to honor these people who give their lives to our country and bring them back to their home country where they can be close to family who can honor them,” she said. “No one should be left behind.”

Woman wins $700,000 judgment over Party City firing

WATERLOO — A Waterloo woman who was fired hours before starting maternity leave has won $656,000 in punitive damages from Party City Corp.

A Black Hawk County jury also awarded Kellie Norris $40,000 in back pay and another $40,000 for emotional distress following a November trial.

Norris started working for the Factory Card and Party Outlet store in Waterloo — now called Party City — as general manager in 2003, and during her time earned awards for sales performance.

After Norris informed her district manager in 2010 that she was pregnant, the district manager refused to grant requests for time off because of severe morning sickness and doctor appointments and disciplined her for being absent.

Norris’ lawsuit also states she was disciplined for not doing tasks she was told not to do because of her pregnancy and for not following policies she was told to ignore during the pregnancy.

The district manager yelled at Norris for requesting short-term disability and maternity leave in November 2010, and four days later fired her when she was two hours away from starting her leave, according to the suit.

Norris’ attorneys filed the lawsuit in Black Hawk County District Court in 2015. She was initially represented by attorneys Heather Prendergast of Waterloo and Glenn Johnson of Cedar Rapids.

The company claimed Norris was fired for legitimate performance-based criteria and failing to comply with company policies. The company’s human resources department was aware of the pregnancy and reviewed the disciplinary actions before approving of the decision to fire her, according to the defense.

Following the verdict, attorneys for Party City have asked the court to dismiss the punitive damage award, arguing that the company has policy prohibiting discrimination, and the district manager attended training on the policy and because no one had complained to the company about the district manager’s conduct.

Iowa let major Medicaid provider keep $2.4M in overpayments

IOWA CITY — After a major provider agreed to stay in Iowa’s troubled Medicaid program, a top aide to Gov. Kim Reynolds quietly signed a deal letting its hospitals and clinics keep $2.4 million in mistaken overpayments, according to records released Thursday.

UnityPoint Health threatened to quit Iowa’s Medicaid program a year ago, saying it was at an impasse in contract negotiations with the managed care organization AmeriGroup. Its departure would have disrupted care for 54,000 Medicaid recipients statewide beginning April 1. But UnityPoint and AmeriGroup reached a last-minute agreement to keep the provider network in the program, a political victory for Reynolds.

Weeks later, Iowa Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven cut UnityPoint a break that allowed it to keep more than half of the overpayments that had been identified by a Medicaid audit, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.

The payments in question were incentives for using electronic health records that Iowa Medicaid had awarded to providers using federal funding earmarked for that purpose. Medicaid awarded UnityPoint hospitals and clinics $19.2 million between 2011 and 2015, but auditors last year found that was an overpayment of nearly $4.4 million due to miscalculations relating to the number of services provided.

The program sent letters to UnityPoint’s affiliates demanding repayment in full, including from hospitals in Des Moines, Waterloo, Cedar Rapids and Rock Island, Illinois.

But the settlement, signed April 25 by Foxhoven, said UnityPoint would only have to refund half of the overpayments after appeals, up to a maximum of $2 million. DHS acknowledged in the agreement the overpayments weren’t due to any “intentional misconduct” by UnityPoint.

UnityPoint argued the overpayments resulted from Iowa Medicaid’s failure to verify and calculate the amounts it was owed under the incentives program, a charge that state officials denied. The agreement said the two sides were settling “for economic reasons, to buy peace, and to avoid the time, cost and uncertainties of contesting the matter.”

A whistleblower alleged in a letter to Democratic state Sen. Joe Bolkcom the agreement was payback for UnityPoint’s continued participation in Medicaid.

In an interview Thursday, Bolkcom said administration officials never informed lawmakers “that they made a $2.4 million decision to benefit one provider network” and questioned whether they had the authority to waive the collection of documented overpayments. He suggested the incoming state auditor, Democrat Rob Sand, should investigate the deal as part of his promised review of Medicaid.

“This just looks really fishy that this deal would be struck,” Bolkcom said. “It would appear this was done to alleviate this political problem of a big provider literally dropping out of the managed care network.”

UnityPoint spokeswoman Heather Nahas said the deal was unrelated to its decision to stay in Iowa’s program, which has faced turmoil since its administration was turned over to for-profit managed care companies.

The agreement came as other hospitals and clinics were complaining that they weren’t being paid in a timely manner and as some severely disabled residents and other patients reported having their services cut or denied. Despite the cuts, the privatization hasn’t saved as much money as anticipated.

The AP requested a copy of the settlement agreement from DHS in early October. At the time, Medicaid was a central issue in the governor’s campaign against Democrat Fred Hubbell, who had accused her of mismanaging the program and ran television ads highlighting the impact on the disabled.

DHS released a copy Nov. 9, days after Reynolds narrowly defeated Hubbell to win a four-year term. Additional records were released Thursday confirming UnityPoint’s affiliates paid back $2 million earlier this year but an additional $2.4 million was waived.

Cedar Falls Parkade parking problem persists

CEDAR FALLS — A passionate group of Cedar Falls business owners and residents came to a public presentation about a parking study of the downtown district.

The presentation focused on a recent online survey about Cedar Falls parking and explained how the study is being conducted by Wantman Group Inc. The study had 2,678 total responses. Almost everyone at the meeting had filled out the online survey.

The consensus of the crowd and the study is that downtown Cedar Falls doesn’t have enough parking.

“We’re going to do two total workshops,” said Andy Miller, an urban planner with WGI. “We had a tremendous response from the survey we did. It shows a lot of people are passionate about parking in downtown Cedar Falls.”

Attending were several city officials, including City Council members Dave Wieland, Mark Miller, Daryl Kruse and Frank Darrah.

“I appreciated the candid feedback from all the merchants and retailers down here,” Kruse said. “I’m very optimistic about the skills that the company is bringing to the parking issue.”

After the WGI presentation, Andy Miller took questions for about an hour.

Ivan Wieland, owner of the Horny Toad, and restaurateur Darin Beck both voiced concern and asked questions about the loss of parking spots downtown. Wieland said he had lost at least 60 parking spots due to new apartment developments in the area taking up a nearby lot.

WGI’s Miller emphasized he didn’t have solutions to present during the meeting. The study will formulate suggestions, he said.

“It’s going to take everyone working together, including the city,” he said.

Throughout the meeting, references were made to a 2014-2015 parking study by Community Main Street volunteers. Dawn Wilson, owner of Cup of Joe, helped with that study.

“I think he’s right on point with everything,” she said.

The downtown district has added major developments since then, she noted.

“When we did the study back in 2014 and 2015, we were projecting to have these developments in here,” Wilson said. “We were trying to be ahead of the eight ball rather than behind the eight ball.”

Andy Miller has been sitting down with restaurant owners, residents and developers to get an idea about what parking needs are.

“That’s what makes coming up with solutions so difficult, because you have so many disparate parts and different kind of constituencies’ downtown,” Miller said.

Most at the meeting expressed a high opinion of downtown. They just think it needs more parking.

“I just think our downtown is a wonderful place to be,” Wilson said.