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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Frozen airman is laid to rest

A U.S. Army airman frozen since a 1942 plane crash was finally laid to rest after a March 25 funeral service at First Lutheran Church, Brainerd, Minn.

Hikers discovered the body of Leo M. Mustonen, 22, in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range last October.

Andy Smith, pastor of First, said Mustonen and his family were members of Messiah Lutheran, a Suomi (Finnish) Synod congregation that merged with First in 1966. Mustonen’s mother had joined First.

One of the airman’s two nieces, Leane Mustonen Ross, helped plan the funeral for an uncle she never knew.

Ross shared that a family friend remembers Mustonen’s mother weeping every day after learning he was missing. “She’d come to her friend’s house for coffee and cry, ‘My Leo, my Leo, if only you could have come home,’ ” Smith said. “That became the impetus for bringing him back to Brainerd and burying him between his parents in the cemetery.

“Then, the night before the visitation, his two nieces discovered their uncle had a first cousin they didn’t even know about.

“In so many ways, this was a resurrection for their family.”


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