Burris and her family decided to give it a shot, and shortly thereafter submitted a DNA sample, through a kit they received in the mail.
“We weren’t sure if anything was going to come of it,” said Robert Burris, Jacquelin’s son.
But about six months later, in January 2017, they were notified that scientists from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System had identified his remains.
“I was shocked,” Jacquelin Burris said.
Ditto for the rest of the family.
“When I tell the story, people don’t believe me,” Robert Burris said. “We tell people we’re going to bury a relative at Arlington and they’re like, ‘Oh no,’ thinking this had happened recently. It’s like, ‘No, this happened 77 years ago at Pearl Harbor.’
“It’s an amazing story. It really is.”
Part of the Marine detachment aboard the Oklahoma, Gaver was one of 429 crewmen onboard who died after the ship sustained multiple torpedo hits by Japanese aircraft.
Over the years, Harry’s life – and time at UVA – has become something of family folklore.
At UVA, Harry was on the lacrosse, tennis and cheerleading teams, and was also a member of Kappa Sigma Zeta fraternity, the German Club and “Thirteen Society” before graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1939.
“I don’t know how he possibly fit everything in his schedule,” Robert Burris said with a laugh.
Jacquelin Burris spent time with Harry when she was a very young girl.
“I knew him more than I can probably remember,” chuckled the 84-year-old, who lives in California.
The one thing she remembers quite well was how good-looking her great uncle was. “I think the girls really liked him,” she said.
Harry was born in Annapolis, Maryland. His father, who was also a UVA alumnus, taught math at the U.S. Naval Academy and later served as the headmaster at the Black-Foxe Military Institute in Los Angeles, a private school whose alumni included actors Gene Wilder, Larry Hagman, Robert Wagner, Alan Hale Jr. and a host of other big names from Hollywood.