Dumpster diving can lead to some amazing finds, from valuable artifacts and kitschy treasures. Sometimes, trash-trawling uncovers a valuable heirloom–like a personal history of a fallen hero.
U.S. Navy veteran Donald Helfer flew in 28 missions over enemy territory during WWII and was decorated for his bravery. In addition to the Navy Flying Cross, a Bronze Star and a touching letter from Harry Truman, Helfer received the President’s heartfelt thanks for his contribution in bringing about the defeat of the enemy and the “heartfelt gratitude of a grateful Nation.”
Helfer was not one to seek glory. He was a retired officer from the Army and went on to become an upstate New York police officer. In 1993, he died and took with him the impressive military achievements.
Although Helfer’s children knew about their father’s service in the navy, the truth of his service was not known to them. The serendipitous discovery of a dumpster in Hickory, North Carolina, was a key to their incredible discovery about Helfer’s forgotten legacy.
A treasure trove of Helfer’s personal belongings including medals, photos, identification and military records was discovered in a Hickory dumpster. The man who found them instantly recognized their value. (Helfer’s effects were most likely discarded by the person who went through his Hickory estate with his second wife. He thought they “not worth keeping.”
The cache was turned over by the finder to Navy vet Commander Jeff Truitt of American Legion Post 554, for safekeeping until Helfer’s relative could be located. Truitt was able locate Helfer’s children in Rochester, New York and his daughter Linda Delorey in North Wilkesboro.
Truitt, FOX 46 said, “This could have been left in the garbage. But maybe this family can now get some closure and find out what their father did.” He was a hero.
Delorey traveled from Wilkesboro to Hickory in February to meet Truitt. Delorey was in awe of Truitt’s neatly organized binder that contained her father’s valuable mementos.
Delorey was able to see a photo her grandfather for the first and only time. It was like watching history unfold in front of her eyes. Now that the family treasure has been restored, Delorey plans to share the bounty with her relatives as soon as she’s able.
Truitt shared the following: FOX. Truitt said, “This man was a Hero in World War II.” “He was just one among millions of those who served–and his story can be told forever.
(WATCHthe Fox 46 News clip about Truitt below.
North Carolina-based writer Judy Cole has a new murder mystery / rom-com debuting on Kindle at Amazon: And Jilly Came Tumbling After (from Red Sky Presents).
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