Navy Spouse Funeral at the Columbarium


By Kevin M. Hymel (Contract Historian)

On July 28, 2022, the inurned remains of Helen Zmuda joined those of her husband, Robert Zmuda, in the Arlington National Cemetery columbarium. The couple had been married for more than fifty years when Robert passed away in 2012. Helen’s extended family attended the funeral and bade farewell to their matriarch.

Helen Zmuda spent most of her adult life working as a nurse, taking a break from her career only to raise her children. She met her husband after World War II, in which he had served as a sailor on the destroyer USS McKee, participating in battles off of Iwo Jima, Okinawa and mainland Japan. “When the bomb went off over Hiroshima, he saw the cloud,” said the Zmudas’ youngest son Paul. The Zmudas also had a daughter, Roberta, and four boys: twins Robert and Richard, Lawrence, and Paul. Roberta died on July 26, 2021.

Speaking of his parents, Robert Zmuda recalled: “They were always together.” Paul agreed: “They both had the same morals and virtues and instilled them in everyone who is here,” he said while gesturing at the group of about forty people. “She was the perfect mother of five kids,” said Richard. “She kept us straight and narrow, religious, and unselfish.” Lawrence added, “They didn’t go on vacations by themselves. Everything was supporting the family, every way they could.”

At the funeral service in Court 7 of the columbarium, a U.S. Navy sailor removed Helen Zmuda’s urn from an official ANC vehicle and marched it, in precision steps, to Section 1, where he lifted it to the open niche and placed Helen’s remains next to those of her husband. Robert then placed a rosary atop Helen’s urn.

Father John Mudd said a few final words at the columbarium. “Helen has gone to her rest,” he told the extended family. “We have committed her remains to the cemetery.” He then sprinkled holy water on the urn and led the family in prayer.

The Zmuda family was already familiar with ANC and the columbarium, having visited their father from time to time. “I come out here for his birthday in January and on Veterans Day,” said Paul. The other brothers chimed in that they visited whenever they could.

When the service was over, the four Zmuda sons were pleased with the tribute to their mother’s life. “I love that they’re together,” said Paul. “I envision them together with my sister in heaven.” Richard considered them together for the long haul: “He’s with her for eternity now.” Lawrence concluded, “It's where they should be, united with God at Arlington.”

ANC’s columbarium, he said, “is a special place in a special location.”