WWII pilot lost for 73 years, laid to rest in St. Joseph

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ST. JOSEPH, Mich. — The last time Bud Rybarczyk was home in Michigan was 73 years ago. He was 22 years old at the time and went off to serve in World War II. However he never returned home.

“It’s a very special moment for us,” said Patrick Scannon who led the group that found Rybarczyk remains. "It’s also really a special moment for the family.”

Family and friends gathered at St. Joseph Catholic Church for his funeral Monday afternoon to finally say good-bye. Rybarczyk was an airman with the Navy went his plane crashed in the South Pacific in 1944. The family never knew of his last whereabouts.

“It was always ‘We knew he was lost but you know is he ever going to come home? We don’t know,” said Scannon about the family's conversations regarding Rybarczyk. “They actually reserved a funeral plot for him.”

Then in 2005 a wing from Rybarczyk plane popped up near the Republic of Palau, he said. Immediately Project Recover and Project BentProp — Scannon's organizations that search for missing military vessels and personnel in the ocean — went deep-sea diving.

“It was another nine years before we actually found the plane because it was in deep water,” said Scannon about the search which included equipment from Scripps and the Univserity of Delaware. “Once they were able to use their autonomous robots to help us look for this aircraft we literally found it in one day."

Scannon said Rybarczyk remains were identified in August and the family was immediately notified. His service brought them the closure they were wanted for years

“We’re finally going to be able to lay him to rest,” said Scannon. “This has been a huge event for the family, big impact. People coming from many states to be here. So it’s a very special moment in this family’s life.”

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