WWII soldier finally receiving military burial

| June 16, 2017

PictureCOSHOCTON – Seventy-two years after being killed in Operation Market Garden, Gene Appleby is finally receiving a proper military burial.

On Thursday, June 22, the World War II U.S. Army Private will be buried next to his mother and sister in South Lawn Cemetery after a funeral service at Miller Funeral Home.

According to www.fieldsofhonor-database.com, Private Appleby was reported Missing in Action on Sept. 17, 1944 and declared officially dead on Sept. 18, 1945. A fellow soldier saw him take a bullet to the forehead, but his remains were never found, that is until 2011.

Human remains were found on Sept. 8, 2011 on the Groenendaal Farm in the Netherlands. After several years of research it was announced in January 2017 that the remains discovered were indeed those of Private Gene J. Appleby, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne.

“When the army genealogist called me and told me she thought they may have found my uncle I think I kind of went numb,” said Gene Simonds, Appleby’s nephew who lives in Florida and is coming to Coshocton for the funeral.

Simonds is the son of Kathleen, one of Appleby’s three sisters. The rest of his family included his mother Elizabeth, father Mark, and sisters Louise and Jane.

The website www.fieldsofhonor-database.com has Appleby’s hometown listed as Franklin County Ohio, but for some reason unknown to Simonds, the family had burial plots at South Lawn Cemetery in Coshocton.

“His sister Louise died at 6-years-old,” Simonds said. His father, who is my grandfather, purchased property at the cemetery. Evidently he purchased enough for a number of graves. When I called the cemetery they said they had plenty of room and it was all paid for by Mark Appleby. I assume he did it when the little girl died.”

Simonds never had the pleasure of knowing his uncle and is happy to be finally putting pieces of his family’s history together.

“He was killed before I was born,” Simonds said. “I wasn’t born until 1947, but I know I am named after him. He’s always kind of been like a hero in my life. I remember pictures of him in his Civil Air Patrol uniform standing next to the wing of his airplane.”

Simonds doesn’t know exactly when or why his uncle decided to enlist in the army, but knows he was 21 at the time.

“Everyone else was 17 or 18 so he was the old man of the group,” he said. “My dad also fought in the same war in France and Italy, but he was one of the fortunate ones who was able to come back home and he ended up spending his life as a career marine. No one talked much about my uncle and if I asked questions I didn’t get real answers. I was 10 or 11 when my grandmother died and my mom hardly spoke of her brother. Those were hard years though because they lost a sister and then a brother. My grandparents also ended up getting divorced.”

After Simonds initial conversation with the Army about his uncle, DNA samples were collected from relatives and a match was confirmed.

“At first I thought to myself, ‘yeah right,’ but then I’ve been on cloud nine ever since,” Simonds said. “I’m just sorry my mother and aunt didn’t live long enough for this, but I guess they know now.”

The gentlemen who found Private Appleby’s remains have been in touch with Simonds and shared their story.

“They found another solider too about 30 yards away from my uncle, but he had his dog tags,” Simonds said. “Someone must have taken Gene’s and that’s why it took so long to find out who he was. The guys who found him like to do metal detecting and had asked permission from the farmer to look in his field where they found him. They are great guys. They’ve sent me pictures and background information. It’s been very rewarding talking to them and all this has been a sense of closure. When I tried to do my family history I wasn’t finding anything out about anybody and this has opened a whole other side of my family. I’m excited to meet Tom Appleby (my cousin who also had DNA tested) and some of the others.”

He also is very thankful for the kindness of everyone in Coshocton who has helped him with the details of his uncle’s burial.

“The people up there in Coshocton have been so wonderful and kind,” Simonds said. “They’ve just been so awesome.”

Miller Funeral Home will pick up Private Appleby’s remains from John Glen International Airport at 2:21 p.m. Tuesday, June 20. Funeral home representatives will meet the plane on the tarmac. There will be an escort with the remains and the Patriot Guard will travel with the group back to Coshocton, where the Coshocton County Sheriff’s Office will pick them up at the county line and lead them back to town.

“Private Appleby’s nephew was told to pick a funeral home here and we are honored that he picked us,” said Matt Miller, from Miller Funeral Home. “It’s our honor to handle this for his family.”

The funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday, June 22 at Miller Funeral Home. Plans are being made to have the Coshocton County Honor Guard perform a walk thru at the funeral home. Graveside military honors will be performed in South Lawn Cemetery with an active duty honor guard and Coshocton’s honor guard will be there to assist.

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Category: People & Places

About the Author ()

I started my journalism career in 2002 with a daily newspaper chain. After various stops with them, I am happy to be back home! I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1998 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2002 from Walsh University. I also earned several awards while working for daily papers, including being honored by Coshocton County’s veterans for the stories I wrote about them. I am honored and ready to once again shine a positive light on Coshocton County. I also am the proud mother of a little girl named Sophia!

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