Fallen Second World War soldier’s medals donated to Calgary Goodwill

CALGARY — A Goodwill store in Calgary is trying to find relatives of a fallen Second World War soldier whose medals found their way into a donation pile.

Manager Lorna Schnepf says an employee sorting donations came across the medals and old family photographs in a cedar box last week.

She says the store would never consider selling such sentimental items, so she took to social media to try to track down family members.

Included is a Memorial Cross, which is given to families of fallen soldiers who died in service, bearing the name Sgt. R.W. Finch.

Gord Crossley of the Fort Garry Horse Museum and Archives in Winnipeg says Finch died in action in 1945.

He is listed as being buried at the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery in the Netherlands.

Schnepf says about three times a year the thrift shop comes across sentimental items they won’t sell, including someone’s ashes. They recently found a military uniform and tried to return it to its former owner’s family. There have never been any war medals until now.

“It’s amazing. People are packing up either a person’s home who had passed away or maybe they’re being moved into a care facility,” Schnepf said Friday.

“I think sometimes they get slightly overwhelmed and when they’re doing it they are doing it fairly quickly and maybe don’t look into every box that they’re donating.”

If she can’t connect with Finch’s family, she said she will give the medals to a war museum or veterans’ organization.

Crossley said Goodwill has been in touch with his museum and he confirmed Finch served with the 10th Canadian Armoured Regiment (Fort Garry Horse). He died near Assen, Holland, on April 13, 1945.

A set of medals attributed to Finch include the 1939-45 Star; the France and Germany Star; the Defence Medal; the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with an overseas clasp and a 1939-45 War Medal.

Those were a normal set of medals for Canadians who served in northwestern Europe during the Second World War, said Crossley, and they would have been sent to his widow, Elizabeth McKay Finch — nee Purdie — in 1946 or 1947.

Memorial crosses would have been sent to his widow as well as his mother, Helen Marie Finch.

A second set of medals in the box could have been from relatives of Finch, Crossley added.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 1, 2019.

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

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