WARSAW — A misplaced Purple Heart has found it’s way back to it’s owners with a little help from Goodwill.
Recently, a Goodwill in Rochester discovered a Purple Heart had been donated. The Vice President of Mission Advancement Guy Fisher states when items like these are found, they don’t sell them, but rather they typically send them to the Department of Defense. However, when they discovered the recipient of the Purple Heart had been in WWII, they decided to send it to their South Bend store for their e-commerce division to research who may have donated the heart.
From there, individuals in South Bend went to work to find who the Purple Heart belonged to. The name of the recipient is listed on the back of the heart, giving them a clue how they might get the heart back to the owner. After finding the history of the recipient, Goodwill discovered the recipient had two living cousins, one in the Finley area and another in Leesburg. They went ahead and contacted the cousin in Leesburg.
Sure enough, when the couple Joyce and Art Needler were contacted, they confirmed they were the owners of the heart. However, they had not even known the heart had been missing.
Fisher said, “He (Art) was surprised to hear from us because he thought he still had it.”
Joyce and Art explained that at the beginning of the summer, they had been in the process of moving out of one of their homes in Hartford and another on Lake Tippecanoe into a home in the Warsaw area.
Joyce stated they had owned their home in Hartford for 50 years and on Lake Tippecanoe 30 years. “We had to have houses cleaned out in 30 days.”
They couple speculates this must have been when the heart was accidentally donated.
Art explains he received the heart from his aunt when she passed away in 1993. His aunt had received the heart on behalf of her son, who had died while serving in WWII.
Art’s cousin, Robert Milton Needler, was the recipient of the Purple Heart. Needler became a second Lieutenant and was the navigator on a B17 Flying Fortress for the Air Force 364 bombardment squadron, Crew G37.
Needler was flying in an aircraft on a routine mission from Cheveston, England toward Hamburg, Germany on Nov. 8, 1944. The plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire and crashed just east of Endorf, Germany. Needler died in the crash.
Brigadier General Roland Walsh awarded Lieutenant Needler the Purple Heart posthumously.
In addition to giving the Purple Heart back, Goodwill also returned Art’s wallet that he had accidentally donated. Art stated when he first heard from Goodwill he was hesitant to believe it, “Sounds like a hoax, people don’t do that.” However, it was not a hoax, and Art received his wallet with the $700 cash and cards that he had left in the wallet.
When asked what they couple would do with the heart, Joyce stated, “It’s going in the lockbox.”
“We’re humbled we could still give it back,” Fisher said, “It’s a family legacy.”