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WWII soldier's Purple Heart gets reconnected to his family

By ERIC HRIN | Times West Virginian, Fairmont | Published: January 18, 2020

FAIRMONT, W. Va. (Tribune News Service) — Little did anyone know, but the Purple Heart medal of Pvt. Richard Earl Gregor had not reached the end of its journey last year when it was presented to the Marion County Historical Museum in Fairmont.

Rather, it was just the beginning.

Last October, the nonprofit foundation Purple Hearts Reunited stopped at the museum to return the Purple Heart that had been earned by World War II Pvt. Gregor, a Farmington native who was killed in action. A Good Samaritan had sent the medal anonymously to Purple Hearts Reunited.

The medal was turned into the museum by Purple Hearts Reunited for safekeeping because Purple Hearts Reunited had been unable to locate any living next of kin for Pvt. Gregor or any direct living family, said Joni L. Morris, executive director of the Marion County Historical Museum, at the time.

However, a next of kin has now come forward, and on Friday, the Purple Heart was presented to Robert Gregor, Pvt. Gregor’s half-brother.

Robert Gregor’s son, Steve, had read in the newspaper about the Purple Heart presentation back in October, and told his father about it.

Arrangements were made, and it all culminated in Friday’s presentation of the Purple Medal back to the family on Friday at the museum.

“Fortunately, we have located a close kin, Robert Gregor, who is with us here today,” said Guy Ward, vice president of the board of the historical society. “And so we want the medal to go the family, because it’s important the family have the medal, not the historical society, because that’s where it belongs.”

Robert Gregor said he was surprised to learn last year about the Purple Heart being brought home to Marion County to the museum.

“I really knew it was my half-brother’s when I saw it [last October’s newspaper article] in the paper,” he said.

He was happy the medal now rests with his brother’s family.

“It’s great,” he said.

He plans to put the Purple Heart in his house in “a place of honor” and passing it on to his sons someday.

He said he didn’t know his half-brother well because there was 10 years age difference between the two.

But one memory does stick out.

“I remember the last time that he came to see his dad, probably just before he went to the service,” he said. “Because they was taking pictures. Back then, you very seldom ever took pictures.”

Robert’s wife, Karen, was pleased with the outcome.

“I think it’s a great honor for my husband,” she said. “It connects him to his brother and his father.”

Ward was also happy.

“I’m glad we found the family to give it to,” Ward said. “We were going to safe-keep it here, but it’s better in the family’s hands than our hands.”

Ward said Purple Hearts Reunited was also happy that the family of Pvt. Gregor had been found so the Purple Heart could be returned.

Morris said it was great the family has the Purple Heart.

“We as a museum, it’s great for us to have things like that, but when we can return them to a family, for me, that’s a wonderful feeling because I know if it was somebody in my family, I would love to be able to have something like that of theirs,” she said.

Born on May 16, 1926 in Farmington to Stephen and Ceatta B. Billingslea Gregor, Gregor enlisted in the U.S. Army Sept. 21, 1944 where he served with Company C, 184th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry division, according to his biographical information.

After being killed in action on May 1, 1945 in Okinawa, he received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his meritorious service and sacrifice. Pvt. Gregor is buried in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Just months before he was killed, he married Alice Crenshaw on Jan. 19, 1945.

ehrin@timeswv.com.

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