When Remains of a Vietnam-Era Pilot Were Identified, One Woman Found Closure, Another Kept Up the Fight





For two women, so much comes down to this: a fragment of bone and the lick of a love letter.

Military scientists recently compared the bone recovered in a North Vietnamese jungle where an Air Force pilot's plane went down 40 years ago to saliva on letters he had sent his wife. It was a DNA match, they announced. At last, they said, the remains of Col. Charles J. Scharf had been found.

What they couldn't have known, however, was how differently that announcement would affect two women he left behind.

His widow, Patricia Scharf, 72, of Northern Virginia, has never remarried, has never had children and still considers the Vietnam War officer the love of her life. For her, the announcement was the gentle rub across the shoulder she had waited four decades to feel, one that let her know it was all right to let go.

For Barbara Scharf Lowerison, 72, his sister in California, the announcement was a slap. It meant she was losing -- if she had not already lost -- her fight to convince officials that her brother is alive, a prisoner of war.

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