Pa. family reunited with WWII veteran's medals
By CLAYTON OVER | Standard-Speaker, Hazleton, Pa. | Published: May 4, 2019
SCRANTON, Pa. (Tribune News Service) — James Timony never talked about serving in World War II, but Friday, state officials reunited his family with symbols of his sacrifice.
Three generations of the Hazleton man's family gathered at the Pennsylvania Treasury's Scranton office to receive Timony's Bronze Star and Purple Heart, long thought lost.
More than 70 years after Timony suffered wounds fighting in Italy and earned the medals, treasury officials discovered the medals in a Harrisburg vault containing unclaimed property.
Mary Timony and Anne Pastorella, Timony's daughters, were shocked but thrilled to hear of the discovery.
"We are very grateful and honored," Mary Timony said. "We didn't know if we'd ever see them again. We knew they existed, but we didn't know where they were."
James Timony lost portions of both his legs in the war, one below the knee and the other at the ankle, and carried shrapnel in his back for the rest of his life, but he didn't let the injuries slow him down, his daughters said. They recall him taking the family roller skating and to sporting events.
He worked in the personnel department of companies in North Carolina and the Hazleton area before ultimately becoming the city's postmaster in the late 1950s.
He had a passion for helping veterans and people with disabilities. He was an advocate for wounded veterans throughout his life and worked with area American Legion and VFW posts, Mary Timony said. He was named "Pennsylvania's Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year" in 1962. As postmaster, he helped veterans gain employment with the postal service.
While Timony was known for his advocacy for servicemembers, he never spoke to his family of his own time in the Army or how he suffered his wounds. Pastorella can remember only one time he mentioned the conflict, after seeing the film "Anzio," named for a battle in the Italian campaign of the war, of which Timony took part.
"He looked at me and he said, 'That's how it was,'" Pastorella said. "That's all he ever said."
Much of what his daughters know of his service came from old newspaper accounts. A February 1956 issue of the The Hazleton Plain Speaker about Timony's appointment as postmaster said he suffered the wounds that would cost him parts of his legs Oct. 19, 1944, in San Clemente, Italy, after he and his comrades came under enemy artillery fire.
The medals offer a tangible link to what they've been able to learn, Mary Timony said.
"I can associate those articles with the medals now," she said.
Timony died in 1975. Her mother put the medals in a safety deposit box after his death. The contents of the box ended up with the treasury department as unclaimed property when she died, Mary Timony said.
That story is not uncommon and the treasury has numerous military medals in its unclaimed property vault, state Treasurer Joe Torsella said. Since his department started a special initiative to return unclaimed medals to servicemembers or their families, they've returned about 180 medals, he said.
Finding owners can prove challenging and can sometimes take years. It took about seven months to locate James Timony's next of kin, he said.
Her father would be delighted that the medals found their way back to the family, Mary Timony said.
"I'm sure he's looking down very happy now," she said.
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