A Minnesota veteran is keeping his word to help a fellow vet.
Wayne Uptagrafft, 84, of Rochester is determined that his old friend will be honored one final time.
Carl Duklet, 89, died in January 2015 at St. Mary’s Hospital, but there was no one to claim the old sailor’s remains. When Uptagrafft learned that Duklet’s ashes were to be scattered without military honors, he moved quickly.
Carl and Wayne had become friends after meeting in a Rochester grocery store. Wayne soon learned about Carl’s precarious financial situation.
”He had very little source of income,” recalled Uptagrafft. “He had some Social Security and I think he got a little government disability. By the time he paid his rent and stuff, he was — nothing left.”
Uptagrafft began making sure that his new friend and old veteran had the necessities of life, including friendships with other Korean War vets. Wayne said his friend was “friendly” but “lonely.”
“He never really wanted to talk about his family until I found out what the end result was of his family that they were a large family and they were a poor family and a lot of them were adopted out,” said Uptagrafft. “But he was not adopted out, him and his sister. They got to stay together.”
However, after the war, Uptagraffit said Duklet had very little contact with the sister. And, as old friends will, they began to talk about death.
“We got to talking about it. I said, you know, ‘What’s gonna happen to you, Carl? When you die? You’re going to die someday.’ And he says, ‘I don’t know. I don’t care.’ Well, I says, ‘I do, Carl.’ I says, ‘I’m a veteran. I do care what happens to you.’ I said, ‘I’m going to promise you one thing. That if you’re still — if you die before me, I’m going to make sure you’re taken care of.’ And I kept my word.”
On February 23, Carl Duklet’s ashes will be buried with full military honors in the new state Veterans’ cemetery in Preston, Minnesota.
Wayne Uptagrafft received an unexpected note from Carl’s sister in Illinois. It was a simple “thank you” for taking care of her brother. Wayne said he once told Carl that all he wanted was a simple “thank you.”