By Linda Tyssen, Mesabi Daily News
Nearly eight decades have passed since Dante Tini left his beloved home and family on Minnesota's Iron Range and joined the Navy. He would die at just 19, killed when Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and the United States entered World War II.
On Saturday the remains of Dante Sylvester Tini were blessed at a funeral Mass at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Virginia, Minn., and were laid to rest in Calvary Cemetery next to the graves of his parents, Italian immigrants Daniel and Rachel Tini. And hundreds of people including military veterans in full dress — and 99-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor Arleigh Birk of Hoyt Lakes — paid their respects.
Tini, radioman third class, was among the 400 of the 4,000 sailors on board the USS Oklahoma killed in the bombing. His remains initially could not be identified and were classified as non-recoverable. He was Virginia's first World War II casualty, and his name was given to the Virginia Veterans of Foreign Wars Crellin-Tini Post 1113.
And through a long process of matching DNA samples from Tini's bones and DNA from a niece of Tini's, positive identification was made.
In the Holy Spirit foyer on Saturday, Crellin-Tini VFW honor guard members stood silently at attention near the casket bearing Tini's remains. Tini's sparkling silver accordion he so loved to play was on display — Tini had written in 1940 a postcard to Baldino Rodorigo saying, "Boy, do I ever miss my accordion."
Among the items on display was a story written by a relative, about the loss of Dante:
"Mother came running down the stairs and turned on a console radio... Japanese planes surprised the Hawaiian naval base. .. With a catch in her voice Mother said, 'Dante is stationed on a ship in Hawaii.' Taking Mother's hand in his, Daddy said, 'Yes, you're right, Dante is in Hawaii. He's all right.'
"Dante wasn't all right ... a gold star flag was hung in Mrs. Tini's window, and the beautiful accordion sparkled lonesome in a corner of their living room. Mr. Tini, gentle and soft-spoken, continued to work faithfully but now his ready smile was gone."
The Rev. Peter Lambert of Our Lady of Hope parish said in his homily, "Faith that helps the sailor prevail is that faith that carries into conflict... I had no knowledge of his faith."
But, Lambert said, Dante Tini grew up on Virginia's Northside and attended Sacred Heart Church.
"They were expected to practice that faith," he said. "I am certain he had a strong faith... For a just cause he lay down his life for family and country... He returns now to embrace his family. He knew his time of war, and now a time of peace."
The priest addressed the family, saying, "You have endured a long time of loss... but you kept seeking and now you have found him. May you know God's peace now that Dante is home."
And before the assembled left the church for a procession to the Servicemen's Club, Veterans Park and the cemetery, a choir sang a naval hymn:
Eternal Father, strong to save, whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidst the mighty ocean deep, its own appointed limits keep.
O hear us when we cry to Thee for those in peril on the sea.