PERU – Seventy-one years after it was written, a WWII postcard has been returned to the veterans family.
John Schlatter, author and postcard hobbyist, said the journey of the postcard for him began in 2011.
I was in an antique store in Colorado and saw some postcards from Maine and it really made me wonder about how those cards got so far from Maine, he told the Peru Tribune in a phone interview. Im retired and have a hobby of buying WWII postcards and returning them, free of charge, to the families of the soldiers who wrote them. One of the postcards I had, was the one from Private Joseph E. Brough. It was one of my toughest one.
Schlatter who had acquired the postcard more than a year ago on e-Bay from a large-volume postcard seller in Indiana, had been trying for a year to find the Brough family, but ran into one dead end after another. The seller had told Schlatter the card had been purchased in an auction in Peru in 2011.
After a quick Google search, Schlatter initially thought he had found the family of Brough relatively easily, until he discovered that the man in Fort Wayne was not related to the family.
Turns out there were two men with the same name and this was the wrong guy, Schlatter said. Thats when I turned to the Peru Tribune for help.
After not having any luck, Schlatter decided to submit a letter to the editor in hopes there was someone in the area that would know the right individual.
He was in luck, Ellen C. Harvey, Miami County resident, had been a classmate at Peru High School in 1959 with Sgt. Broughs son, Robert (Bob) Brough.
The very day that letter printed someone who knew the real J. Brough got in touch with his family and he sent me a letter and we had a very nice conversation, Schlatter said. He told me he remembers meeting the train carrying his fathers coffin when it arrived in Peru. He also remembers marching as a Cub Scout in a parade when the WWII monument was dedicated on the courthouse lawn.
Brough was killed when his airplane went down in the Pacific in 1944. By that time he had advanced to the rank of staff sergeant. His body was returned to Peru in 1950 and interred at the Mount Hope Cemetery.
When I talked to Bob, he said the only fact he didnt know was when his body was returned and discovered. It turns out his body was found by the Australian Army, Schlatter said. I have mailed out about 40-45 postcards and each one has its own story. I find it to be a very fun hobby.
As it turns out, several local residents responded to Schlatters request for locating the family.
One of which was Betty Copeland, a cousin of Bob, who remembered Staff Sgt. Brough from his childhood.
I wrote to the man who had sent the postcard, I heard from him first and then he told me how to get ahold of Bob. I sent him family photos that I had of his father and I got a real nice letter from him, Copeland said. Just that I wondered how he had got ahold of the card and I wrote to him and thats how it started. But he did answer my letter. I enjoyed it that was really nice.
Copeland said she only has childhood memories but that they are very dear to her.
Im very happy that it found its way back and had just about given up on this one. If it hadnt been for your newspaper and some very alert readers this postcard wouldve been put in my too-hard pile, Schlatter said.
Bob Brough, who lives in Michigan, said he was glad to have his fathers postcard returned.
Schlatter has published a book with the stories he has learned of about 20 of the postcard soldiers called Postcard Memories From World War II: Finding Lost Keepsakes 70 Years Later.
Sgt. Broughs story was not included in the book because he had not found his family at the time of publication.