'A feel-good moment': Charity worker reunites family with WWII heirlooms
Rob Nykoluk used social media to track down late veteran’s niece after mementos discovered
It's something Rob Nykoluk likes to do every year when the weather turns cold — hand out warm, gently used jackets to Winnipeg's homeless with his mission group. But this year, something different happened.
On Sunday, a man who had received one of the coats returned with an unusual bundle of papers in his hand.
"This gentleman, a homeless man … handed me these documents," said Nykoluk.
They included a World War II soldier's service and pay book along with photographs and discharge papers for a veteran named, George Jewell, born more than a century ago on Feb. 6, 1915.
"It had a look and feel of something that's fairly old … It just felt important," he said.
Nykoluk said he immediately recognized the mementos would be important to any of Jewell's relatives.
"I thought that was kind of neat that he didn't just dismiss it out of hand," he said. "A feel-good moment."
Nykoluk, who handles social media for Gifts of Grace Street Mission, took to Facebook to ask if anyone could help connect the papers with one of Jewell's descendants.
"As it turns out, one of the ladies from a personal care home saw this and said, 'This gentleman was one of our patrons.'"
'Just a win, win, win'
The woman, an employee at River East Personal Care Home, connected Nykoluk with Jewell's niece-in-law, Lynda Peterson who had handled her uncle's affairs until he died in August at 101 years old.
The jacket which had contained the papers, was donated to charity along with all his other clothes.
Peterson said she completely surprised by the discovery and had never seen the World War II documents before.
"I was just amazed," she said.
The homeless man who recognized the value of the papers must have been a "nice, special person," she said.
Her uncle George, as she called him, never married and had no children. She remembers him as feisty and an avid fan of daily walks — even during Winnipeg winters.
He never boasted about his time serving in the army, she said, but was proud of his service record.
Peterson said she is in the process of contacting nieces and nephews to see if any of Jewell's blood relatives would like to hold onto the documents.
Nykoluk hopes the souvenirs add to the family's "storehouse of memories."
"This is just a win, win, win."
with files from Courtney Rutherford