WWII medal mystery: from Mass. framing store to Vt. cemetery

"It’s like a closure that I can't believe," Ginger Farquhar said of her second cousin's WWII medals. "I wish he was here to appreciate it."

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The perseverance of a complete stranger made it possible for a purple heart and bronze star to be returned to the family of a World War II hero. This saga takes us from a framing shop in an Ashland, Massachusetts, strip mall to a cemetery in Vermont.

Don Gordon, of Premier Image Gallery, says a few years back somebody brought in a package with World War II medals, and he put them in a drawer waiting for the person to bring in a few photos -- but apparently they never came back.



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"I opened it up and I just said, oh my God. I said, I can't believe that these have been here this long," he said. "It's probably been at least eight, nine years."

There was no paperwork in the box but there was a big clue -- the purple heart and bronze star were engraved with the name Arthur Butler.

"And that's when I decided that I am going to make a quest and find Mr. Butler," said Gordon, who called his congressmen and several VA offices.

"They gave me the names of a half a dozen Arthur Butlers who served in World War II."

Gordon traced Butler to a senior living community in Marlborough, Mass., and got sad news that he had died in Aug. 2022.

"So now I'm saying to myself, how do I do this?"

Gordon was introduced to Charlie Rousseau, the attorney who handled Butler's estate.

Rousseau told him that Butler was a bachelor with no children or grandchildren. He was 100 and outlived a lot of relatives but he had a couple of second cousins up in Vermont.

The plan was for Roussea to meet up with Ginger Farquhar, of Proctorsville, Vt., and get the medals to her. She was especially close to Butler in their later years. Butler was about 20 years older than her. She knew him as a banker, a big lover of small trains and large locomotives.

"We spoke every night on the phone at around 9 o'clock," Farquhar said.

Butler spoke little of his war experiences to Farquhar and her sister Betty Barker, but Farquhar says Butler was in Okinawa.

It was the last major battle of WWII -- the bloodiest of the Pacific campaign. Butler was in a firefight battling from a foxhole and injured by shrapnel from a grenade. He had to wait until morning to be rescued.

"The last night before his passing, he told me he was getting tired, and I thought it was because he'd had a busy day," she recalled. "Little did I know that it would be the last time I spoke with him."

Years after Butler's military funeral came a moment where Farquhar received Butler's medals.

"It’s like a closure that I can't believe. They were out there and we didn't know they existed," she said. "I wish he was here to appreciate it."

Farquhar thanks Gordon for finding her.

"He fought for us, along with other veterans, and it's an honor really to get these back to the family," Gordon said.

Farquhar and her sister will give the medals to the Framingham Veteran's Administration. Gordon is going to frame them.

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