A thrift store volunteer stumbled upon a Purple Heart service medal from the 1950s when sorting through donated items that had been dropped off. Assuming the role of detective, she successfully located the family of the serviceman who owned the Purple Heart and returned the medal, three decades after his death.
The medal came as a shock to the family, offering new insight into the man who once served his country in Korea.
“This is the first one where I’ve been successful finding the family,” said Teresa Ferrin, who volunteers once a week at Christian Family Care Thrift Store in Phoenix, Arizona, to CBS 5.
Part of Ferrin’s job involves pricing donated items before displaying them for sale in the store. In early February, a donor dropped off a collection of military awards mounted on cardboard, one of which was the Purple Heart, an award given to those wounded or killed in the line of duty.
Ferrin, whose own father served during the Korean War, read a name on the back of the medal—Erik Karl Blauberg—and felt moved to find his family.
“I thought, if it was my father’s, I’d certainly want someone to return it to me,” Ferrin told Fox News. “I just felt the family needed to have that.”
Turning to the internet, Ferrin learned that Blauberg, also a Korean War veteran, fathered eight children. He was living in Apache Junction, Arizona, when he passed away in 1988 at 58 years of age.
Upon contacting several of Blauberg’s children via Facebook, Ferrin learned more.
“They were estranged from him,” she explained. “They knew who he was, they talked to him occasionally, but they didn’t really know him very well.” She found out Blauberg had moved out of the family home, leaving his wife to care for their eight children by herself.
Blauberg’s daughter Lisa Walker, who lives in Florida, told Ferrin that her father left nothing to his children in his will. Receiving the Purple Heart, she reflected, was “bittersweet.”
“We didn’t even know he had a Purple Heart,” she admitted. “I knew, and my brothers knew, that he had medals, but we didn’t know he had a Purple Heart, so that was very shocking.”
Ferrin posted the incredible find on Facebook, sharing it with Walker some 2,000 miles away in Florida.
The Purple Heart, engraved with their father’s name, is one of his only possessions that Walker and her siblings have. She expressed gratitude toward the thrift store volunteer-turned-detective for her efforts.
“I can’t believe someone went above and beyond like Teresa did, and didn’t give up to find us,” she said.