Local veteran buried in Arlington Cemetery
May 31, 2018
On May 8, 2018, two years after he died, Wahkiakum County resident John Didricksen was buried at Arlington Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. It was a final dream, fulfilled posthumously by friends and family.
Didricksen graduated from Wahkiakum High School in 1966. According to his friend David Nelson, Didricksen had a learning disorder and never learned to read. Still, the Army didn’t hesitate to draft him.
When his younger brother, Joseph, was called up, Didricksen, who had already served two tours in Vietnam, signed up for a third and went in his brother’s place.
After he got out of the Army, he worked for high seas fisheries for many years. He worked at a Seattle shipyard before starting his own commercial fishing outfit in Alaska, a job that Nelson says that Didricksen loved the most.
Didricksen was a woodworker in his spare time. He liked to build scale sized models of boats, and macrame hammocks and bags. He also made custom fishing poles.
“He was a big ‘Gentle Ben,’” Nelson said. “He had big hands, but they did intricate, beautiful work.”
A few years ago, Didricksen spent a week in Washington, D.C. along with Nelson and a couple other friends. While there, they stopped at Arlington Cemetery. It was closed at the time, but when a serviceman from Portland heard where they were from, they got a private tour.
Didricksen served as a Specialist 4 in the Army’s Artillery Division. He received several medals including the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, and the Bronze Star.
Fred Hoven, who Nelson described as more family than friend to Didricksen, was instrumental, along with a cousin and Stephanie Olsen of Dowling Funeral Home, in securing a spot for the serviceman at Arlington. Hoven escorted Didricksen’s remains to Virginia, and witnessed the ceremony with the Honor Guard.
“I was honored and and proud to make his last wish come true,” Hoven said.