As we approach Remembrance Day, we would like to share a story of how a military family was re-united with personal heirlooms. This all started with a donation we received at our Calgary TransCanada Goodwill Thrift Store.
On a crisp, beautiful day in Calgary, a beautifully put-together shadow box filled with medals, patches, and a black and white photograph of two soldiers showed up at our donation centre.
Unsure of who it belonged to, we knew we needed to do some research to try and find a respectful resting place for them.
If this sounds familiar, you may be thinking of another set of medals that were also donated to Calgary’s Trans Canada Goodwill. Find the story here.
In our research of each medal and patch, we found that the medals dated back to World War 1 and 2! There’s something indescribable about holding medals from that time, thinking about what the recipient did, put on the line, and experienced for the freedom and benefit of future generations.
What to do with the Medals?
When we received the donated medals, we began exploring different avenues of finding them a home. Starting with the Canadian Forces in Calgary, we were able to get some guidance on how to proceed from Sergeant Hartwick of the Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre. He recommended that we connect with the Calgary Military Museum.
There, we had the pleasure of chatting with Walter, the Collections Assistant and Manager at the Army Museum of Alberta. He shed light on the origins of each medal and gave tips on how we could begin to uncover the individual who earned each one and what base the recipient had been at by reading the edge of each medal. Along the edges, you could see engravings which read., “J.T. Hearson”, “59162 PIE J.T Hearson Notts & Derby. R”, & “S.Sask.R”.
With these new-found details, the Goodwill team put on their detective caps and began reaching out to army bases in Saskatchewan in hopes there would be a record of our mysterious J.T Hearson. Unfortunately, we didn’t receive a reply, but we weren’t about to give up. Our next step, checking obituaries for Hearsons in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Amazingly enough, we found an obituary for one John Thomas Hearson, born in Nottingham Yorkshire, England, and settling in Wayburn, Saskatchewan.
Now that we had a name, we could make our way through the Hearson family tree searching multiple obituaries until we found a living descendant, a Mr. Kelly Hearson, P.Eng who resided in Manitoba.
Since we didn’t have a contact for Mr. Hearson, our Google sleuthing lead us to a community group that mentioned his name numerous times. We reached out to them with our findings and they graciously passed along our contact information as well as a note of possibly having his family heirlooms.
A week later, we received a call from an understandably skeptical Kelly Hearson who soon became overjoyed in hearing that we may have his grandfathers’ medals. A quick email with photos was sent and one of the men in the photo was identified, “that’s definitely Grampa in the photo; he was not a tall man :D. Thank you very much for this!” Kelly proclaimed.
Now that we had a living relative, we wrapped everything up and packed it safely away in a repurposed box to shop out to Winnipeg, Manitoba where the medals could be reunited with John Thomas Hearson’s grandson, and his own son’s medals, which Kelly has on display at his home.
It's an exciting and heartwarming feeling to have been able to reunite a descendant of this veteran with their hard-earned medals. This Remembrance Day we will reflect and appreciate what we have and the life we get to lead thanks to our selfless veterans.