Chillicothe community celebrates connection to Pearl Harbor sailor

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CHILLICOTHE—Joseph Hoffman Memorial Weekend kicked off Friday with an open house at Joseph W. Hoffman American Legion Post 757 where members of the community remembered the sailor and shared their chance ties to him.

Hoffman was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. His remains were found during World War II, but could not be identified until 2020, when scientists used anthropological and DNA analysis. Chillicothe celebrated the sailor with several different events over the weekend.

Joseph W. Hoffman American Legion Post 757 member Dean Williams shared that he recently rediscovered a forgotten handkerchief that belonged to Hoffman.

He had intended to give it to the legion post long ago, but had misplaced it and consequently forgotten. This week, he found it while rearranging his safe. The artifact had embroidered edges and read “US Navy”.

Lt. Col. Bob Leach, a local historian and former history teacher, described Williams finding the handkerchief a week before Hoffman’s remains returned home to southern Ohio as “unearthly”.

Bob Pulver, an Air Force veteran and owner of Hoffman’s childhood home, said he bought the house in the 1990s without knowing its history. He said he had thought about selling his house in the past, but now that he knows the historic value, he plans to keep the house for the foreseeable future.

A memorial service for Joseph T. Hoffman, who died Dec. 7, 1941 aboard the USS Oklahoma in the attack on Pearl Harbor, at the Joseph W. Hoffman American Legion Post 757 in Chillicothe, Ohio on Dec. 20 August 2022. Hoffman's remains were found after 80 years and brought home.

Another artifact was also recently located in Circleville at another legion post. An American flag that may have been salvaged from the USS Oklahoma, the ship Hoffman was stationed on during Pearl Harbor, was discovered at Legion Station Circleville. The flag was on display at Hoffman’s funeral service on Saturday.

Among the coincidences, the Navy announced that Hoffman had been identified less than a day after Johna Pulver of the Ross County Veterans Services office contacted them about an update on Hoffman’s case.

The Chillicothe Post 757 Junior team also won the regional tournament this year, which Leach says was inspired by Hoffman’s identification.

Leach began the ceremony by giving an oral history of Hoffman’s life. Teresa Lewis of U.S. Representative Brad Wenstrup’s office came to the celebration to read a letter written by Wenstrup in honor of Hoffman’s return to Chillicothe.

“Your hometown boy is finally home,” Lewis read. “The unbearable grief his family must have felt upon learning that Joseph was missing and presumed dead and the pride they felt at the same time knowing that their precious son was doing what he loved and serving his country.”

Wenstrup donated a flag that had flown over Washington DC to commemorate the event.

The Huntington High School Marching Band performed and paid homage to Hoffman’s roots in the high school marching band. The group’s manager, Kristin Coen-Mishlan, said they also attended the ceremony to thank the legion post, as it had recently donated money for the drum line.

“I had tears in my eyes when I spoke to [my students] and explaining the importance of being invited to participate today and the importance of respecting what he has done for our country,” Coen-Mishlan said.

After performing, band members were able to participate in a tribute to Ross County veterans by trying on traditional uniforms from different branches of the military. Afterwards, they assisted in the Ross County Veterans Honor Guard Flag Burning Ceremony.

The celebration ended with the Ross County Veterans Honor Guard Flag Burning Ceremony. Barbara Koch, a member of the honor guard, said she was honored to be part of the celebration.

A memorial service for Joseph T. Hoffman, who died Dec. 7, 1941 aboard the USS Oklahoma in the attack on Pearl Harbor, at the Joseph W. Hoffman American Legion Post 757 in Chillicothe, Ohio on Dec. 20 August 2022. Hoffman's remains were found after 80 years and brought home.

“When we have things like that, it brings the community together,” Koch said. “When veterans and everyone come together, I think it’s a good thing.”

A memorial service for Hoffman will be held today at 11 a.m. at Tyler Methodist Church.

Megan Becker is a reporter for the Chillicothe Gazette. Call her at 740-349-1106, email her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @BeckerReporting.

A memorial service for Joseph T. Hoffman, who died Dec. 7, 1941 aboard the USS Oklahoma in the attack on Pearl Harbor, at the Joseph W. Hoffman American Legion Post 757 in Chillicothe, Ohio on Dec. 20 August 2022. Hoffman's remains were found after 80 years and brought home.
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