After a Calgary Goodwill store received a shadow box filled with war medals and a black-and-white photograph of two soldiers, they spent months locating the soldier’s grandson.
When an employee at a Goodwill store in northeast Calgary came across a shadow box among donations for processing, he quickly alerted the manager.
It was filled with medals, patches, and a black-and-white photograph of two soldiers — and the employee, a history buff, understood that he had found something meaningful, marketing coordinator Jasmine Robinson says.
“We often receive really special donations, but I’d say with this historical background, it’s once in a blue moon,” Robinson told The Homestretch on Thursday.
She was quickly alerted to the discovery, and spearheaded a search to reunite the family the medals belonged to.
And although it would take months, they would eventually find the soldier’s grandson.
“Sometimes we get things where we look and we think, ‘I don’t think this was supposed to make here,'” Robinson said.
“We began our hunt to find [the medals] a resting place.”
First, the team reached out to the Canadian Forces recruiting centre in Calgary, who directed them to the Army Museum of Alberta.
From there, they were connected to the collections assistant, who noticed an inscription along the side of the medals: “JT Hearson,” along with “Sask.”
“He kind of directed us in different ways of how we can go about tracking down the items. But ultimately, Google was our best friend,” Robsinson said.
Google led them to Kelly Hearson in Winnipeg, Man.
And when Robinson finally got ahold of him?
“It was a phenomenal feeling,” Robinson said.
“To be putting so much work into tracking down possible relatives and doing all this sleuthing, and then to finally find a living relative — it just meant the world.”
‘My heart leapt’
When Kelly Hearson first received an email from Robinson, he thought it was a scam.
“I thought it was something scurrilous, or somebody was fishing. I really didn’t place much stock in it,” Kelly said.
But his grandfather, John Thomas Hearson, had fought in the trenches during the First World War, and trained recruits during the second.
And a few days later, after mulling the email over, Kelly wondered if it could be true.
When finally spoke to Robinson on the phone, and she sent him a photo of the shadow box, he realized it was legitimate.
“[It] had a picture of my grandfather in it, and my heart leapt,” Kelly said.
“I just couldn’t believe my good fortune in having these medals come forward, and having them be able to come home to us.”
A thread, a string
John Thomas Hearson lived in Weyburn, Sask., Kelly said.
He was soft-spoken, and never talked about the wars, or his involvement in them.
Kelly lived a province away, and didn’t know his grandfather very well; he died in 1981 at age 86.
But Kelly suspects the medals made their way to Calgary by way of his aunt, who lived in the city. And they mean a great deal, he says.
“It’s a thread, a string, that connects us to his generation,” Kelly said.
“They not only mean a lot to our family, my son and his family, our daughter and her family. But they also mean a lot to people who see them, when they’re displayed in our home. They want to know about them.”
Currently, the medals are being professionally restored, and getting ready for Kelly’s display case.
“And there are new ribbons that are being obtained, in order to be able to have them become pristine,” Kelly said.
“Who knew that there would be someone in Winnipeg who has these ribbons for the medals that are 100 years old or so?”