A historical society in Missouri is hoping to place names to the American soldiers’ faces as part of a neighborhood mystery linked to World War II.
The McDonald County Historical Society is asking for the public’s help in identifying 65 veterans — all included in a photo album created during the war, as local boys and young men left their homes in the southwest corner of Missouri to serve their country.
“There are roughly 115 veterans in the album that needed to be identified,” Hazel Sheets, director of the McDonald County Library in Pineville, Missouri, told Fox News Digital.
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The photos are part of an album compiled by Bonnibel Brown Sweet, who helped run her family’s business, a drug store called Brown’s Sundries. It was located in the town square, according to Lynn Tatum, board chair of the McDonald County Historical Society.
“The drug store was kitty-corner from the old courthouse where our museum is housed now,” Tatum told Fox News Digital.
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“Many of those kids that she had been nurturing had grown up and had signed up to go to war,” Tatum said.
“She was a surrogate mother to all of the kids walking to school and became more than that … She became a very beloved character in our county.”
— Lynn Tatum
“They were so dear to her that when they went off to war, she gave each one of them a silver dollar to remind them that they had someone back home who loved them,” she said.
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More than 120 men and two women mailed photos of themselves to Sweet’s drug store. Sweet knew their names, according to Tatum — but she never added those names to the photo album. Now, the public’s help is needed. (McDonald County Museum)
Tatum explained that Sweet, after receiving word from a local serviceman, would put a push pin on the map, marking where that person was stationed.
“So people could come into the store and it was like a little news outlet for where the young men were,” Tatum said.
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Members of the McDonald County Historical Society led an effort to recreate Brown’s Sundries, the drug store where so many soldiers said their goodbyes and returned home to Pineville.
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“Donna Lou was very helpful to us when we started the big exhibit,” Tatum said. “She gave us some money and some artifacts from the drugstore.”
“He decided he would donate the album to the McDonald County Historical Society, so that he did,” Tatum said.
Tatum and Sheets are working together to identify all the veterans in the photo album — including this one — who are currently unnamed. (McDonald County Museum)
Tatum said that when she and Sheets got the album a few years ago, about a third of the photos had names.
She added that the society is a long way from identifying all of the veterans.
Still, she applauds Sheets for launching a plan to try naming them all.
“Every once in a while we hit gold and somebody calls in, and then Hazel [Sheets] will do her best to research,” Tatum said.
“We listen carefully to the wording when people say, ‘I think this is someone I know,’ or ‘This person looks like this family.’ And we wait until we’ve got a pretty clear identification of the person.”
“He was moving furniture around in her living room, and when he lifted the coffee table, the top came off,” Tatum continued. “The legs of the coffee table were hollow and inside were stacks of silver dollars.’”
If you can identify any of the American veterans in these photos, please contact the McDonald County Library. (McDonald County Museum)
Tatum said that a neighbor reportedly called the bank president, who safeguarded the silver dollars until Sweet returned from her out-of-town trip.
“We try to keep those fun stories alive,” Tatum added.