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St. Thomas woman looking for descendants of WW2 vet after finding his service record

A St. Thomas woman is trying to connect with the descendants of a World War II veteran after discovering his service record inside a book she purchased from a Goodwill store.

Kelly Patterson found the document inside a book at Goodwill

Kelly Patterson is searching for Henry St. Pierre's family members, after finding his service record in a book. Her post on Facebook has been shared more than 950 times. (Submitted by Kelly Patterson)

Are you related to Henry St. Pierre?

A St. Thomas woman is trying to connect with the World War II veteran's descendants, after discovering his service record inside a book she purchased from a Goodwill store.

Kelly Patterson said she was looking for an autobiography for a friend on Friday when an old, thick copy of History of World War II being sold for $2.50 caught her eye.

"When I opened up the inside, I noticed there was service record in there," she said.

Patterson, whose father is also a veteran and whose brother is currently serving in the military, describes the moment she saw St. Pierre's photo as overwhelming.

"He had gone to Belgium, he'd gone to Holland, it said he'd been to Germany. He's been all over Europe, and I just imagined his whole life in front of me, seeing his service record, imagining what he'd gone through," said Patterson.

Now, she's on a quest to find his relatives.

Patterson turned to social media for help.

As of Sunday afternoon her post on Facebook had more than 950 shares.

Wartime souvenir

Service records like this one are not uncommon, according to Jonathan Vance, a history professor at Western University.

"After both wars, commercial publishers … looking for a product to sell, printed these histories of war and they came along with preprinted pages where you could personalize it."

Jonathan Vance said nine times out of ten, families have been disinterested in getting their ancestors old relics back. But sometimes, he added, they're absolutely thrilled. (Submitted)

Individuals may have sought out a calligrapher to write the details for them, said Vance, but in this case he suspects St. Pierre or a family member attached the photo and entered the information themselves.

"It's just a very informal kind of record, intended to be his souvenir of the war."

The record appears to be dated either June 19, 1941 or simply June, 1941.

It said St. Pierre was a craftsman, which Vance explained as a junior rank among members of the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers unit. He was also promoted two ranks to corporal, and his first assignment was as a dispatch rider.

"One assumes he was a dispatch motorcycle rider … they were trained in the UK and they had a really high casualty rate. They were regarded as quite reckless."

Since there are no other assignments mentioned, Vance said St. Pierre was likely a dispatch rider throughout the duration of his service.

The A5788 service number on the record correlates with an entry for a Henry St. Pierre on the website Gathering Our Heroes.

The entry says St. Pierre is the son of Alfred H. and Stephanie 'Fanny' (nee Stirling) St. Pierre, that he married Ana C. Howells in England on March 27, 1944, and that he died at age 80 on January 2, 2000.

It also said that he went to Chatham, after being released from service in London.

Kelly Patterson found the service record in this copy of History of World War II that she purchased at a Goodwill Bookstore location in London Friday. A Facebook post she's using to find relatives has, as of Sunday afternoon, been shared more than 950 times. (Submitted by Kelly Patterson)

Throw away culture

Vance said it's a fun project to return historical records to family members but he cautions against investing "enormous" amounts of time on it.  

"In trying to do similar things in the past, I find families are more often not interested than interested," he explained.

"The fact that families don't want them is incomprehensible, but maybe they'd say 'oh we have other pictures of him and there's not really much detail here so I don't really want to store this,'" he said. 

"We live in a throw away culture and I think nowadays, that's the default. Most historians live in fear of what goes out with the garbage every week."

Sometimes, however, Vance said families are absolutely thrilled to be reconnected with such items. He gives Patterson "full marks" for her efforts and said he'd be doing the same thing.

If she doesn't connect with a descendant, Patterson said she'll be reaching out to some organizations and local museums to see if they're interested in keeping the service record.  

"I just know it belongs somewhere else," she said.

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