A discovery inside a Sultan home and a subsequent garage sale sent a husband and wife on a two-year mission to find the rightful owner of medals, memorabilia, and letters from World War II.
“Boy, will I be glad when this darn war is over,” Roger Haller read from one of the letters. “I’m quite anxious to get some serious stripes to go along with my shooting medals.”
The letters are penned by Seattle native Nathan Jack Newby. He was a U.S. Army sergeant during World War II and was deployed to the South Pacific. He wrote the letters from Camp Callan in La Jolla, Calif., to his parents.
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“I feel the angst, and he wants to get it over with,” Haller said.
His wife, Joni, found the letters, medals, patches and dog tags stuffed in a plastic bag at a garage sale two years ago.
“On the outside of the bag was a little note that said: found in an abandoned house. Help look for the owner,” Joni said, explaining a builder found the items behind a wall in an abandoned home in Sultan.
Right away, her husband began searching Facebook and Ancestry.com and tracked down Jack Newby’s granddaughter.
“She responded with an OMG,” Roger said. Though she did not show up to collect her grandfather’s belongings, the Hallers felt it was their duty to persist.
For them, it was more about restoring a family’s lost memories than returning memorabilia.
“My father was in that war. When he came back, he didn't have a mark on him, but he was very damaged. None of this information about letters home or medals or stories of his boot camp or anything. He came home and shut right up. So it kind of hit home because of that,” Roger said.
The Hallers social media posts also hit home and caught the attention of others online, who helped track down Newby’s son in Montana. Joni wrote him a letter.
“This was back in February, and I didn’t get a reply until Friday,” Joni said. “I go, ‘Is your dad still alive?’ And he goes, ‘Well, yes he is 93 years old, and he will be so happy to get this back.’”
The Hallers are packing up and shipping out his things Monday morning.
“What I want out of this is to get a response from Mr. Newby when he gets it back and see what it really does mean to him,” Roger said.
Newby has yet to receive the items, but his son Nathan David Newby said his father, who now lives in Marysville, said, “That’s nice.”
David Newby, on the other hand, says he is excited to receive his father’s things, as his dad “never really talked much about [the war] when we were kids. I think it’ll be wonderful. Anything of my father’s, I treasure.”
He says his father was honorably discharged after two-and-a-half years and returned to Seattle, where he worked as a baker for Hansen Bakery in Lower Queen Anne.
David Newby says the World War II items will first come to him and then he will deliver them when his father visits him next month.