Clara Gantt, 94, was at Los Angeles International Airport when her husband's coffin arrived Friday morning, the Los Angeles Times reported. Gantt, who normally uses a wheelchair, stood, weeping during the arrival ceremony.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Gantt, a recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart who had already served in the Pacific theater during World War II, was taken prisoner in 1950. U.S. officials were later told he died in March 1951.
Clara Gantt said her husband told her she should marry again if he did not return from the war. But she said she continued to believe he might be alive, the Times said.
"I told him I missed him so much," she said. "And I expect him to come home and he didn't."
The couple met in 1946 on a train. Clara Gantt, who grew up in a large family on a Texas farm, was traveling to California, where she hoped to make a new life for herself. She said she waited a couple of years to marry him because she feared he might have a wife already.
The Gantts lived in Washington state before he was sent to Korea. She later bought a house in the Los Angeles area, where a wall is covered with photos and memorabilia of her husband's military career.
"I would just pray and ask the Lord to let me live until they find a closure for him so I can be here to put him away myself," she said.
In recent years, North Korea has returned the remains of several hundred U.S. soldiers who died during the war, the Times said.