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Ending the unusual saga of an Omaha family, the ashes of a wartime sailor were recently "consigned to the sea."
Those dignified words of the U.S. Navy, and the solemn burial in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 15, gave comfort to relatives of Edward J. Frodyma, who grew up in a large South Omaha family and fought with distinction in World War II and the Korean War.
"It took a long time for him to get to rest in peace," said brother Irv Frodyma. "I know he'd be happy about this. He was crazy about the Navy."
Edward Frodyma, who lived in California but returned to his hometown each summer, died nearly 20 years ago. His Omaha relatives thought his ashes had been buried at sea in 1992 but learned last year that they had been held by another brother on the West Coast.
After that brother died last June, the executor of his estate called and surprised Irv by asking what to do about Edward's ashes.
The Navy was contacted, and the ceremony was performed from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, 348 nautical miles off the coast of Southern California. The ashes of other veterans also were buried at sea.
The Navy sent Irv photographs, a DVD of the ceremony, an expended shell casing from the volley fired by the honor rifle squad and a navigation chart showing the exact location.
"It was both fitting and proper," Capt. J.D. Alexander wrote, "that he received such a burial ceremony from the deck of a proud warship."
That could be the end of the story, except that there was much more to the tale of this Polish-American family.
Frank and Anna Frodyma raised 10 children at 4117 L St. while he worked long hours at the stockyards for the South Omaha Terminal Railway. All the kids attended St. Stanislaus Elementary and South High School.
Five brothers served in World War II — Ed in the Navy, the other four in the Army. Toward the end of the war in Europe, as Allied troops pushed toward the Rhine, Irv met up in France with older brother Ted.
The joyous reunion took a somber turn at their departure when Ted handed his address book to Irv, expressing a premonition that — after four years in the Army — he wouldn't survive the last weeks of the war.
Irv's engineering unit set about building pontoon bridges while Ted's moved into Germany.
On April 16, 1945, as Ted's unit stormed the infamous Nazi stadium at Nuremberg, he was shot in the forehead and killed at age 26.
"Three weeks before the end of the war," Irv somberly noted.
Edward, meanwhile, had survived a kamikaze strike on his ship in the Pacific, though 53 crewmates did not. Said Irv: "He buried a lot of guys at sea."
Ed stayed in the Navy and received a Bronze Star for his actions in September 1950 during an assault of Inchon. His ship, the USS Collett, had taken a direct hit. As a gun-mount captain, Ed "continued to fire against the enemy shore batteries," his citation says, obtaining many hits and "contributing directly to the success of our landings."
Ed spent 30 years in the Navy, retiring in California. He married but had no children. Practically every summer, he drove to Omaha for the church festival and Polish food at "St. Stan's," part of his weeklong reunion with family and friends.
By 1992 Ed was a widower, and relatives that August urged him to be careful as he started out alone on the long drive west. He never made it home.
For two months, his family knew nothing and feared he had been killed. Police issued bulletins. A psychic imagined him in an area with trees. Irv drove the route, hoping to learn something. The World-Herald was among publications carrying news stories about the mystery.
Finally, after two months, Ed's body was discovered to be in a mortuary at Lake Havasu City, Ariz. He had suffered a fatal heart attack in his car, and his body had been, in effect, stored.
For far too long, no one was notified, although Ed had carried identification and the names and addresses of relatives.
A sheriff acknowledged that, "We goofed there, not intentionally."
That indignity contrasted greatly with the dignity of his military service and of his eventual burial at sea. It was delayed 20 years longer than his Omaha relatives preferred, but they are grateful for the Navy's care.
"Those who participated in the ceremony felt the deep solemnity of the occasion and were privileged to serve on your behalf," Capt. Alexander wrote to Irv.
Retired businessman Irv Frodyma, 87, lives with his wife of 63 years, Pauline, in their Omaha home filled with photos of their four children, 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Ed was a happy-go-lucky guy, Irv said, popular with family members and friends on his visits back home and always proud of his Navy service.
He survived to age 79. How many times in his Navy career and as a veteran had he sung the Navy hymn's prayerful words?
"Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee / For those in peril on the sea!"
His family is glad that, at long last, the old sailor's wish was fulfilled and he was entrusted to the ocean deep.
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