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Navy Fireman, Antigo native laid to rest in hometown after nearly 80 years

Kenneth Doernenburg receives military honors for his burial at Elmwood Cemetery in Antigo, WI.
Kenneth Doernenburg receives military honors for his burial at Elmwood Cemetery in Antigo, WI.(WSAW)
Published: Sep. 25, 2021 at 7:09 PM CDT
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ANTIGO, Wis. (WSAW) - Navy Fireman First class Kenneth Doernenburg returned home Saturday to be laid to rest. Governor Tony Evers ordered flags to be flown at half staff in honor of Doernenburg’s return.

“He was full of life, he was 22 when he joined up and had all of his life in front of him,” Doernenburg’s grand nephew, Joe Detzler said as he shared stories of his life. “{But} really the other stories I’ve heard were the wait.”

The wait of nearly 80 years was signified with 80 flags lined from the entrance to Elmwood Cemetary to Doernenburg’s burial site.

“When Pearl Harbor occurred, they couldn’t determine when, or if he was dead for weeks.”

Doernenburg’s location was unaccounted for and he was presumed dead. It wasn’t confirmed until a DNA test was done in 2020 by Doernenburg’s other grand nephew, Mark Doernenburg.

“Because of my wife she egged me on to do it and finally I said okay, she said this would be really great if we could get closure on it and that’s what we followed through with,” Mark said.

His ancestors and family traveled to Wisconsin from Michigan. They explained why they made the decision to bury him here.

“What he called home, was Antigo. And that’s how we ultimately decided that’s where he needed to be,” Detzler said.

People from the community along with two motorcycle groups came out to show their support. The Patriot Guard Riders of Wisconsin were also the ones who put the 80 flags around the cemetery.

“It’s very humbling this is part of the greatest generation that was attacked unprovoked and they gave up their lives for our freedom,” Ride Captain for the Patriot Guard Riders, Andy Brigham said.

Another supporter was the Sparks Doernenburg Post 3 American Legion, which is named after Kenneth Doernenburg.

“It’s a significant honor, never before has a legion post buried their namesake,” 20-year American Legion Member, Gary Kluwe said.

The family said they were overwhelmed and thankful for the overwhelming support everyone showed for them Saturday.

“We just take a step back for the show of the locals here, the people by the road it was just overwhelming...what we saw and experienced, completely validated the decision to bring him here, because he’s home.”

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