It was a windy trek up the extinct volcano by bus, to the inside of the punchbowl on the Puowaina Crater.
Roads led pedestrian traffic around the cemetery and through it, with enough space on either side for 13,000 grave markers commemorating some of those killed fighting in the Pacific in World War II.
Harry Wellington Kramer rests at site 675 in plot F on the west end of the cemetery.
The 21 Chi-Hi students, along with their chaperones, shuffled left of the entrance and took a right at a fork between plots E and B.
The weather was drizzly, but that was a good sign, according to an optimistic tour guide showing the Wisconsin group the area.
Just north of plot E, in the middle of the row, the students huddled around Kramer’s gravesite.
They brought along a miniature Wisconsin flag that recent Chi-Hi graduate Jason Bejin planted near the grave. They strewed Plumeria petals around his engraved name from the leis they received when getting off a plane.
Kramer was one of 56 Wisconsin veterans who died during the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941. But he was closer to the kids at Chi-Hi; he was a alumnus and Chippewa Falls native.
“It was surreal to connect how Harry was at this high school and lived in Chippewa Falls,” Chi-Hi junior Jonathan Skora said. “(For us) going thousands of miles away to see his grave - it’s just crazy.”
The group was led by Chi-Hi government and sociology teacher, John Kinville, who said he always felt pulled to historical figures.
“The connection to Harry meant more to me than I really thought it ever would,” he said. “I’m becoming close to trying to figure out who he was as a man.”
In that learning process, Kinville was able to share his first trip to Pearl Harbor with his group of students.
“Being a lead chaperone, I wasn’t really on vacation,” he said. “I’m watching the students at various locations. Students on the one hand are snorkeling and experiencing the Pacific Ocean. Then in the Punchbowl Cemetery, I’m seeing tears and the connections they’re making.”
“You get a lot more out of going there than reading it out of a book,” Kinville’s student, 16-year-old Dakota Pederson said.
Pederson and Bejin were two of the last students to sign up for the 6-day trip that was taken in June, and ended up raising the most money for the trip.
“It’s an eerie feeling, going to a place 70 years ago or so that was being bombed,” Bejin said. “He was our age, maybe a little older. That’s weird; a little scary, too.”
Pederson compared the visit with the day of the attack. “You think about what happened on that day, and now it’s so calm there.”
Evelyne Yungerberg of Eau Claire heard about the trip to Pearl Harbor that the students at her former Alma Mater were taking, and she had a contribution to make.
Stored away in boxes in Yungerberg’s possession was Kramer’s memorabilia. Kramer was the only sibling of Yungerberg’s father. Her father was born in Chippewa Falls, two weeks after her uncle was killed.
She doesn’t remember hearing much about her uncle, attributing that to the pain her family experienced from his loss.
“I think the grief was so deep; it was so unexpected,” she said. “They just didn’t talk much about him.”
She said her oldest brother, who died in November, remembered the day the servicemen came to the door.
“That was right before Christmastime, and after that, my parents never had another tree,” Yungerberg said.
It was years later, after Yungerberg’s mother died, that Yungerberg began to sort through the pictures and other items belonging to Harry.
After connecting with Kinville by phone, she met up with him and a student at Heckel’s in Lake Hallie. Over breakfast, the three pored over Harry’s content.
“Included in all that was all the letters; my grandparents saved all the letters,” Yungerberg said.
As a retired secretary, Yungerberg had an urge to type the letters and bind them together in a handbook. Kinville then took copies for this students to read on the plane.
“Thank you for going and honoring Uncle Harry,” Yungerberg told Kinville and the three students Tuesday. “It means a lot to the family; we really appreciate what you’ve done honoring him. Thank you.”
Kramer’s effects are visible in a double-glass display near the front entrance of the high school.
Kinville said he and his students are currently raising money to make a permanent display case near the gym that will expand beyond WWII.
Part of that display will be a section devoted to the Vietnam War after students return from a 2015 trip to Washington D.C.
Students garnered $520 towards the fund. Kinville said the money was raised after four days of red, white and blue ribbon sales. The ribbons, purchased by Kinville, were put together by students and handed out with a suggested donation of any amount.
But then Kinville heard that the Wisconsin Veterans Home on Park Avenue in Chippewa Falls was running out of a recreational fund.
Kinville will be delivering the $520 check to the Veterans Home at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. He will also play a video about the students’ trip to Hawaii that includes a tribute to Kramer. The video can be seen at youtube.com or teachertube.com by searching for “Flags for the Fallen”.
The school is accepting donations for people who want to help fund the display case. Kinville said about $1,900 is still needed. Checks can be mailed to: Chippewa Falls Senior High School, 735 Terrill St., Chippewa Falls, WI 54729. Checks should be made out to Chi-Hi with “display case” in the memo.