(WBRE/WYOU-TV) Sometimes the most precious gift can come from a complete stranger. That was the case for one Pennsylvania woman. Eyewitness News Reporter Rachael Espaillat shows us how an overseas discovery helped her learn more about her own family.
Nancy Shilling of Biglerville never knew her father, Albert Coleman.
“Before he was a name,” said Shilling on Sunday. At 76 years old, the Adams County woman is just starting her mission to learn more about him. And it’s all because of a bracelet found thousands of miles away.
During a special ceremony Sunday, the Snyder County Historical Society gave Shilling the bracelet that belonged to her dad. An off duty officer in Wales found it, six inches deep in the ground using a metal detector.
It had Coleman’s name and service number on it.
The officer wanted the family of the soldier to have it.
“Now I start wondering, where did he come from? I don’t know what he did when he was a little boy,” Nancy told Eyewitness News.
Her dad lived in Beavertown and Middleburg as a kid. He graduated from Sunbury High School and died shortly after his 26th birthday while serving in World War Two. Shilling was just a baby then.
Her father actually kept her baby shoe in his helmet when he was deployed. He told one of his friends if anything should happen to him, he wanted it to be sent back to his family.
“Make sure you send this to my wife and he did. He sent that shoe back to my mother,” Nancy told us.
As Nancy pieces together parts of her dad’s past, she’s also learning more about her family tree.
“We’ve put together a whole pamphlet of Coleman genealogy that leads back to the Civil War. For her to enjoy as well, and share with her family,” explained Ester Klinger, Assistant Librarian and Board of Directors, Snyder County Historical Society
“I realized in spite of what he was going through, he loved me,” said Nancy.
And that feeling extends through other family members who are helping her celebrate this gift.
Coleman died in 1945 but his body wasn’t sent back to the states until 1949.
He’s buried in Beavertown Cemetery, which they visited after the ceremony.
Learn more about the Snyder County Historical Society.