Missing Vietnam Navy pilot from Eastern WA buried beside parents decades after he vanished

A Vietnam War pilot from Eastern Washington was laid to rest, some 56 years after he disappeared.

The Grandview native and Gonzaga graduate was back home at last.

Paul Charvet was just 26 years old when he vanished without a trace, over North Vietnam in 1967.

His remains were found in 2021 and were identified as belonging to him the next year.

On this Memorial Day, for his family, it was the closing of the circle.

By all accounts, Charvet was an easy-to-like 20-something, who loved to fly.

“Paul was very outgoing and very gregarious, and didn’t know a stranger,” said Dona Re’ Shute, Charvet’s younger sister.

Shute says Charvet studied at Gonzaga. He then enlisted in the U. S. Naval Reserve in 1962. Charvet was a lieutenant when he was assigned to Attack Squadron 215 aboard the U.S.S. Bon Homme Richard. He flew the single-seat A1H Skyraider.

Shute remembers the day she found out her only brother was missing.

“Oh yes,” she said. “Yes, I do. I was in Seattle. My daughter was a month-and-a-half-year old. We were expecting him to be home. So, I was thinking the phone call was (that) Paul’s home. And Mom and Dad were talking to him. And that wasn’t the phone call at all. So very heart-wrenching.”

Indeed, her brother disappeared on the last day of what was to be his last tour of duty in Vietnam. He left behind a young wife.

“He was retiring from the Navy and he was going to become a commercial pilot,” she said. “And then they were going to start their family. That was the plan.”

Ten years later, Charvet was officially declared dead. The family held a service for him and moved on.

Then in 2021, her sister called.

“Lorraine called me right around Memorial Day and said, ‘Are you sitting down? I have news,’” remembers Shute. “She said, ‘They found Paul.’”

Their brother had been missing for 54 long years. By then, their mother was a century old, her memory fading.

“And Mother said, ‘That is wonderful news,’” said Shute. “So, she knew at that time.”

On a windswept day in April, Charvet and his mom, Blanche, were buried at the Mabton Cemetery next to his Dad, Ray, complete with full military honors.

“It was so touching, so beautiful, really was,” said Shute.

This April day was more than a half-century in the making but that didn’t make it any less sweet.

“And they said, ‘We never forget our own,’” Shute said. “‘We’re always looking for our own to bring them home.’ It just gives you chills.”

U.S. Naval Reserve Commander Paul Charvet, welcome home.