WYANDOTTE – On what would have been his 89th birthday, an Ottawa County Bridge was dedicated to fallen Korean war veteran Army Corporal Eldon Ervin, a Wyandotte native.
The bridge, located at Highway 60 that crosses over the BNSF Railroad just east of Wyandotte, was dedicated during a ceremony held at River Bend Casino Hotel on Thursday.
Cpl. Ervin, who was raised in Wyandotte, was just 21 years old when he was killed in action on Nov. 27, 1950, while trying to help his fellow soldiers when they were overtaken by enemy fire. The wounded were rescued, but the dead were left behind at the time
Early last year the Ervin family was notified that, after 65 years, Ervin's remains had been found and identified.
In March 2016, Ervin’s remains were flown to Tulsa International Airport from Hawaii. The local soldier was then escorted home to Miami by a motorcade of his family members, military escort, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, firefighters from both Tulsa and Miami, Miami police and the Patriot Guard Riders.
This week, family and friends gathered once again, along with State Representative Ben Loring, to honor him with the bridge naming.
Ervin's sister Shirlene Bowlin said although she was just two-years-old when her brother was killed, the family always talked about him and he was never forgotten.
"We are so grateful to then-Commissioner Gary Wyrick, Ben Loring and Norm Hildebrand for helping to make this happen," Bowlin said.
Early last year, Representative Loring introduced a bill to have the bridge dedicated to Ervin after being contacted by Wyrick.
"I am very honored to able to do this, it was certainly my pleasure," Loring said.
As the family gathered and visited with each other, River Bend hotel manager Melissa Morris was especially interested in meeting with the family.
Morris is the granddaughter of Cpl. Ervin but had never met any of his immediate family. In fact, until this day, the family didn't know that Cpl. Ervin had any children.
"I guess he got word about the baby, but he never told anyone," Bowlin said.
"My mother was born when he was in Korea, so he never got to see her," Morris said. "I always knew who my grandfather was, I knew his name, that he died in the Korean war, but I just didn't know anything else about him," she said.
At the urging of her younger siblings, Morris said she had been doing genealogy research and recently found the stories published in the Miami News-Record about Cpl. Ervin's remains being returned home.
So when she was asked by Second Chief Norm Hildebrand to prepare a banquet room for a dedication ceremony last week, she asked for the name so she could make a sign for the entrance.
"He told me it was for a veteran named Eldon Ervin who was killed in the Korean war," she recalled. "I told him, 'that's my grandfather!'"
Family members were surprised and delighted to meet Morris, and as the ceremony concluded, Morris and the rest of the Ervin family were busy exchanging phone numbers so they could continue to keep in touch with their new-found relative.
Morris, who only had a small snapshot photo of her grandfather helped the family create a display of photos for the ceremony.
Morris is eager to get back to her genealogy documentation.
"Now I can start adding people and relationships and pictures to the family tree," she said.
There are still 7,820 American’s remains unaccounted for from the Korean War.