History may never know why the cremated remains of James and Irene Powers sat in storage at a Seattle cemetery for nearly a century. Those details have been lost to time.
But on Saturday, the couple finally got a proper service — with military honors — at Tahoma National Cemetery. As a cold drizzle fell on the snow-dusted cemetery, about 200 people gathered to watch the service, their attention directed to the two urns holding the remains of James Powers, a Civil War veteran, and his wife, Irene.
Among those who came to bear witness were four of the couple’s descendants. It was the first interment of a Civil War veteran in the state of Washington since 1951, said James Dimond, one half of the Kent couple that researched the Powers and worked to make the interment possible.
“It is my honor to have found these individuals and to give them the burial that they deserve,” said Loretta Dimond, James’ wife, who did exhaustive historical research on the couple and on James Powers’ service.
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The urns containing the couple’s remains sat in “community storage” at a Seattle cemetery for decades until the Dimonds, who describe themselves as historians with a passion for the Civil War, came across them. After months of research and with the help of Robert Patrick of the Washington chapter of the Missing in America Project, which works to find, identify and inter the unburied remains of veterans, the Dimonds’ detective work ended with a final resting place for the couple.
At the service, women in hoop skirts and bonnets with mufflers to keep their hands warm stood alongside men in Civil War-era military uniforms. Others were dressed in more contemporary cold-weather garb, but all were there to see history: It’s only the second time a Civil War veteran has been buried at the Kent cemetery. Re-enactment groups and members of the Puget Sound Civil War Round Table Association and Washington Civil War Association were also in attendance.
But seeing the direct lineage of the couple they spent so long researching and thinking about seemed to provide the biggest joy for the Dimonds and others involved. Jill Mohler and Glenna Miller’s grandmothers were sisters, and were the Powers’ granddaughters. Miller’s mother, Lorraine Burnett, and her son, Cory Miller, also came to the ceremony, and the family even dug up pictures they found of James and Irena.
“Our family is very grateful and thankful for everyone who’s helped to make this happen and helped us learn more about our heritage,” Glenna Miller said Saturday. “I think we’re overwhelmed at the amount of people involved in bringing this together and just please know how grateful we are.”
The Powers’ son, the Rev. Jesse D.O. Powers, was a leading progressive clergyman in Seattle in his day, and supported the women’s suffrage movement and other causes. The family had heard of him, but knew nothing of his parents, according to Mohler.
“We knew of Jesse in Seattle, but my mother was 10 and Lorraine was 12 when Jesse passed away … so the history was kind of lost from beyond that,” Mohler said.
How did they connect with the Dimonds? Burnett, an avid newspaper reader, read about their work a few weeks ago in The News Tribune.
“She was reading and saw Powers and recognized the name, and mentioned her grandfather as the eldest son James came to live with in Seattle,” Mohler said. “To be able to come up with these pictures, they’ve been in a basket in our living room for many years. We’ve had pictures of people and we weren’t sure who they were. … We are so honored to find out more about our family, and our connection and our lineage with the Civil War has just been overwhelming to all of us.”