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Remains of Ohio soldier from Korean War identified

By MARK ZABORNEY | The Blade | Published: November 21, 2018

TOLEDO, Ohio (Tribune News Service) — Army Pfc. Leo J. Duquette, 19, of East Toledo was listed as missing in action early in the Korean War and then declared deceased months after the armistice.

In August, the infantryman’s remains were identified through DNA analysis, a chest X-ray, and dental records, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced this week.

“It’s going to give hope to a lot of families,” his sister Ruth Tepper, 72, of Temperance, said.

Private Duquette, who attended Waite High School, was a few weeks shy of his 18th birthday, Feb. 14, 1949, when he enlisted in the Army. The Korean War began in June, 1950, and on July 11, he and his comrades engaged in combat against North Korean forces near Choch’iwon, South Korea.

He could not be accounted for and was declared missing in action. With no further information. authorities declared Private Duquette deceased in December, 1953, the POW/MIA accounting agency said.

In between, military forces clashed and hostilities ceased.

“I remember my parents, because of the agony of not knowing, they would go through articles — like LIFE magazine would have pictures during war time — and they’d look through pictures thinking maybe they could recognize him,” Mrs. Tepper said. They even examined the photos with a magnifying glass. His mother wrote to a LIFE photographer and asked whether he’d taken down the names of the soldiers he encountered.

“You knew as years went on that he wasn’t coming home, when everyone else came home, but there was still a glimmer of hope,” Mrs. Tepper said. “I was so young. I remember my mother telling the story, she had a dream she was on the bus. It was raining and stormy and white lilies fell at her feet, and the next day, that’s when they got the telegram that he was missing.”

The family later in the 1950s had a Mass celebrated in Private Duquette’s memory. His father, Lucien Duquette, 71, died in 1967. His mother, Corinne Duquette Fries, 97, died in 2007.

“They would be amazed that we were one of the fortunate ones to get his remains back. This is unbelievable,” Mrs. Tepper said.

In October, 1950, remains of 164 Americans were found near the spot where Private Duquette and his unit fought the enemy, the POW/MIA agency said. The remains that came to be accounted for as Private Duquette’s could not be identified then and were interred at a cemetery in South Korea and later moved to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

In 2017, the remains of Unknown X-132 were sent to a laboratory for analysis, the POW/MIA agency said. That led to Private Duquette’s remains being accounted for. Mrs. Tepper learned the news in August as she, her husband, Ernst, and son, Andrew were set to attend a conference for families of the missing.

Surviving Private Duquette are his sisters Mary Lou Gargac and Ruth Ann Tepper and brother Owen T. Duquette.

Services are to be held Dec. 15 at the Eggleston Meinert & Pavley Funeral Home in Oregon, with visitation on Dec. 14. Times are pending.

Today there are 7675 American remains unaccounted for from the Korean War, the POW/MIA agency said.

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