CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Hundreds of veterans, family members and the public turned out to pay their respects for an Iowa sailor killed Dec. 7, 1941, in the attack on Pearl Harbor.
William James Shanahan Jr., 23, of Cedar Rapids, died while serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Oklahoma. One of his sisters donated DNA almost 20 years ago and finally, in May 2019, his remains were identified.
St. Patrick’s Catholic Church filled with mourners on Tuesday, Sept. 3, for a funeral Mass for the fallen sailor, with burial at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Cedar Rapids.
Shanahan’s parents, William and Florence Shanahan of Cedar Rapids, and five of his siblings — Margaret, Robert, Thomas, and twins Patricia and Patrick — died before his remains were identified. His sister, Mary Lou Shanahan Pierce, is his closest surviving relative, along with nieces and nephews.
Just 7 when Shanahan died, Pierce said she was the youngest and he was the oldest of their siblings, so she didn’t have any clear memories of her brother, other than the profound sadness surrounding his death.
Shanahan was born on July 22, 1918, in Cedar Rapids, and graduated from St. Patrick’s School in 1936.
His obituary noted that Shanahan was employed as a Gazette carrier salesman and also worked for Concrete Materials Co.
He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on October 5, 1940. His father William Sr. served in the U.S. Navy during WWI, and his three younger brothers also served in the U.S. Navy.
While most who attended the funeral Mass had never met Shanahan, William Dale of Cedar Rapids, said he remembered him.
Dale, who just turned 90, recalled watching Shanahan play basketball for St. Patrick’s High School, when Dale was a fourth-grader.
He came to pay his respects to Shanahan’s family at the funeral.
So, too, did Anita Miller, whose mother, Marie, was engaged to Shanahan.
Miller, 72, who lives in Independence, remembered hearing about Shanahan, recalling visits to see his mother when the family lived in Cedar Rapids.
Her mother, who died in 2010, married a few years after Shanahan’s death, but Miller said she never forgot him.
Miller said her daughter heard about Shanahan’s remains being identified.
“She emailed that he was coming home,” Miller said. “I had to be here for my mother’s sake.”
Memorials may be directed to the Patrick J. Shanahan VFW Post 788, Cedar Rapids, for a William J. Shanahan memorial. See Shanahan’s obituary at Murdoch-Linwood Funeral Home and more images from today’s services in Cedar Rapids, below: