There are "family history angels" everywhere - people who find old Bibles, photos, or other family memorabilia in antique stores or yard sales. They snatch up these treasures and reunite them with their families. One such angel was a man named David, who found the cap in New Jersey. Surprisingly, Joe's name and serial number were inside. Unfortunately, David was unable to locate descendants of the Leonard family. With Joe's close ties to my great-uncle, well, David gave me the cap to take care of in the interim.
|Joe Leonard's cap|
|Inside the sweatband|
|Lt. Joe Leonard|
And every so often, I'd check Ancestry.com family trees, looking for someone who had Joe in their tree. And every time, I would come up empty-handed. But as I promised David when he sent me the cap, I kept trying.
A couple of weeks ago, I finally rounded up all the letters, photos, documents and data that I had been collecting on my great-uncle Ray, and decided to sit down and work on writing that story of his short life, and the fascinating years he spent in the U.S. Army Air Force. I thought again about that fresh-faced young man, the fearless pilot that Ray trusted with his life, and vice-versa. I climbed to the top of the closet and pulled out the box containing the cap, and once again took it out, looked it over, and imagined the young lieutenant wearing it, dressed sharply in his crisp uniform. I tried Ancestry.com again - and finally, I found a tree that listed Joe, his parents and siblings! Several emails and a phone call later, I have found the proper home for Joe's cap. I will re-pack it, and take it to the post office next week, and after 70+ years, the cap will finally be in the right place, at home.
And it feels good.