30 years later, Canby woman reunites Purple Heart with family

CANBY, Ore. - It was 1979 when Ronda Stone was struggling in life.

She lived in Woodburn at the time and went to a storage unit auction hoping for a sign.

"I said, 'Lord, if there is anything you want me to get in one of these boxes, let me know.' So the first box went, somebody bought it, and the second box came up, and nobody said anything. So I said, 'Two dollars,'" Stone says over three decades later.

It was two dollars for two items she feels are worth so much more: a Bible with encouraging, handwritten words inside and a Purple Heart awarded to a Pvt. Lowell L. Reynolds.

"I had earned the responsibility to get it back to the family," she says.

She tried the phonebook and veteran organizations without success. Then years later, in 2006, tragedy struck. Her beautiful home went up in flames, but among the ashes the Purple Heart remained.

"It was in a drawer tucked away somewhere where the fire didn't get it," Stone says.

She kept it safe for several more years until finally, another sign, an advertisement on Facebook that she says she was supposed to see.

The ad was for a nonprofit organization called Purple Hearts Reunited.

Within 24 hours, the nonprofit learned Pvt. Reynolds died in France in 1944 during World War II. But his son is still alive.

"Wow, it's finally going to happen," Stone says. "This Purple Heart is actually going to get back to where it belongs."

The Purple Heart is now on its way to Boise, Idaho with a copy of a letter from Stone.

"I'm grateful for his service to our country and the ultimate price he paid," Stone wrote.

She says she'll miss the Purple Heart in a way. It's encouraged her all these years, but she knows it belongs with the man who lost his father at just two years old.

"I just hope that just holding that would give him some kind of connection with the father he never knew," Stone says.

An active Army captain in Vermont runs Purple Hearts Reunited using only his own money and donations.

If you want to help reunite more Purple Hearts and their rightful owners, visit its Facebook page.