Maine woman to be reunited with WWI ancestor's Purple Heart
PITTSFIELD, Maine — A Purple Heart medal awarded to a soldier injured in World War I is being returned to his family in Pittsfield on Sunday, thanks to a series of serendipitous events.
The medal awarded to Pfc. Frank Conroy, who lived in Portland after the war, somehow ended up in Vermont, where it came into the possession of Sheila Bedi of Vershire, Vt.
According to military and genealogical records, Conroy was born in 1894 in Lynn, Mass. He joined the Army in Syracuse, N.Y., in July of 1917. He served with the 2nd Infantry Division and served in France, where he was wounded in action on July 1, 1918.
After the war, he lived in Portland, Maine, and owned and operated his own lunch bus in the ’30s. He died in 1962. His name is found on a large family tombstone in Birch Grove Cemetery in Bangor, where several of his family members lived, though it isn’t clear whether he is buried there.
Bedi said Friday that she received the Purple Heart two years ago from her father, who got it from his brother after he died. She speculated that the uncle likely bought the medal at an estate sale, flea market or a similar venue.
Bedi, a metal detector enthusiast, posted a picture of the medal on a website for other enthusiasts but did not get any solid leads. More recently, she saw a TV news segment about , founded by Vermont National Guard Capt. Zachariah Fike, and contacted him.
The nonprofit foundation locates lost or stolen military medals and returns them to veterans or their families in order to honor their sacrifice, Fikes said Thursday. So far, he said, nearly 70 medals have been reunited with rightful owners.
Fike connected Conroy to Monica Pollard of Pittsfield, who listed Conroy as a relative on www.ancestry.com, a genealogy website that features thousands of family trees.
A message was left for Pollard informing her of the discovery of Conroy’s medal, but Pollard said she had finished most of her family tree and discontinued her subscription to the website.
About two weeks ago, however, Pollard renewed her subscription and found the note, putting into motion Sunday’s reunion.
Bedi said that on Sunday, she and her husband, Jeff Worster, will drive to Pittsfield from Machias, where they have been visiting with Worster’s family.