Researcher Unearths Military History of 101-Year-Old Casper Marine; Funeral is Friday
Casper resident Remigio "Ray" Barela recently died at 101 with no known family, a few friends, and little known about his life.
But a Dallas psychologist and field genealogist went to work this week to research his early life and military record to further honor his memory when he is laid to rest at a service at 10 a.m. Friday at the Oregon Trail Veterans Cemetery in Evansville .
Dr. Theresa Vo said a friend of hers in Georgia posted a story about Barela, so she began to dig, she told K2Radio.news on Thursday.
"So when I saw this story, it just struck a chord with me and I knew that there was information out there that we could find about his service," Vo said.
"One thing I've always heard is that we die twice," she said. "We die once when we leave this Earth and we also die when we're no longer remembered; and so I wanted to do my part in the community and try to find out some information about this man. And if he truly was alone in this world, those of us who are left deserve to know what he did and he deserves the honor and respect for his service."
She started with the scant information given earlier this week by long-time friend Randy Knudson and Wyoming Patriot Guard leader Mike Byers: Barela was born in Colorado, he enlisted in the Marines in 1942 and served until 1946.
After the war, Knudson said Barela worked in California as a vegetable farmer and sheepherder, and moved to Wyoming in 1990 where he was a sheepherder until he retired at age 85. He lived his last five years at an assisted living facility in Casper.
But little else was known until Vo went to work.
She first looked up military records on Ancestry.com and found a lot of people named Ray Barela.
She narrowed her search and focused on the name Remigio Barela in Colorado and figured he was born in 1918, she said.
"I found a hit on the Marine muster roles for Remigio Barela," she said.
He was born to Daniel Barela and Piedad Chavez in Conejos County, Colo., and enlisted in the Marine Corps Denver in April 1942 when he was about 23, Vo said.
Another researcher, Yolanda Neal from Colorado, confirmed Barela was born on Oct. 24, 1918, in Los Sauces, Conejos County, Colo. All Barela's siblings died before him, as did his nieces and nephews. His siblings were Otilia Barela Ford, Isaac Fred Ford and John/Juan Isidro Barela. All his brothers also served in WWII and one went on to serve in Korea, Neal said.
Vo said Barela went to Camp Pendleton, Calif., for his training, and then was sent to the Marine barracks at a Navy base in Norfolk, Va. "I don't know how he ended up over there."
In July 1943, Private Ray Barela was on his way to the Pacific.
By January 1944, he became a private First Class and worked for the Motor Transport Supply Company, First Base Depot, Supply Service First Marine Amphibious Corps in Noumea, New Caledonia, which is about 600 miles east of Australia, Vo said.
By April 1944, Vo said he rose to the rank of corporal and was with the Fourth Base Depot Marine Supply Service, Fifth Amphibious Corps in the Russells Group, British Solomon Islands.
In January 1945, he was working with a quartermaster and was listed as an equipment operator and was in the Engineer Company, Fourth Base Depot Supply Service, Fleet Marine Force, she said.
By April, he was aboard a boat that traveled from Guadalcanal, Pearl Harbor and Guam, and was on a destroyer in Auckland, New Zealand, at some point, Vo said. "So apparently he was all over the Pacific."
In April 1946, Barela was back at Camp Pendleton and then honorably discharged.
For Vo, the matter is personal, she said.
"My uncle Vic served in the Pacific," she said.
"My uncle Vic was 18 when he became a Marine, he went to Pendleton, and he served in the battle of Peleliu and the battle of Okinawa," Vo said. "I've always been so interested in honoring the background of that greatest generation that fought in the Pacific."