Ohio County Sailor Killed at Pearl Harbor Laid to Rest on Memorial Day

Welborn L. Ashby of Centertown, Kentucky, was laid to rest on Monday, May 31st, nearly 80 years after his life was lost in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Posted: May 31, 2021 8:29 AM
Updated: May 31, 2021 8:22 PM

Navy Fireman 3rd class Welborn Ashby was only 24 when he died during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Ashby was aboard the USS West Virginia, which sustained multiple torpedo hits, killing Ashby and 105 other crewmen on the ship in the process.

For 80 years, he was among the missing in action World War II soldiers buried at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific -- in Hawaii.

But his family never gave up hope.

“[In] 2011 my mother-in law gave DNA and one of her sons gave DNA to the navy," said Christopher Kern, one of Ashby's extended family members. 

Ten years later and it's an emotional homecoming for the War Hero's family.

“He was the first World War II casualty from Ohio County and they actually named a portion of the road here in Ohio County after him," Kern said.

Rolling Thunder members were among many veteran groups who picked up Ashby’s remains at the Nashville International Airport Thursday - escorting them to the Bevil Brothers funeral home in Beaver Dam.

“It’s truly amazing these guys have been laying in wait longer than I’ve been alive," said Todd Matonich, the Rolling Thunder Kentucky 5 president. "I just can’t imagine or fathom that for the families let alone the MIAS themselves.”

That wait was finally over --  all culminating in Monday’s celebration of life — with full military honors provided by the navy and smoke on Aviation of Louisville presenting a missing man flyover. 

“It’s just special," Kern said. "We're doing it right.”

While the family had the option of burying Ashby in Arlington — they say the plot in Centertown , where he grew up, is the perfect resting place for the hero.

“This is a small town community," Kern said. "He was only 22 when he enlisted and he spent his whole live here in Centertown. I think unfortunately there aren’t any survivors that maybe knew him. There’s still a lot of family in this area."


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