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Wednesday, July 24, 2024 at 7:25 PM

Uncovered war bonds reunited with next of kin

Uncovered war bonds reunited with next of kin
Officer Lew Hatch delivers found war bonds to the owner’s next of kin, Jennifer Quiroga.

Author: Jessica Edwards

In March, Officer Lew Hatch was organizing the Whitesboro Police Department’s (WPD) property and evidence room (a project for which he received an award of recognition) when he made an interesting discovery.

“While going through found property, one of the guys asked me, ‘Hey, what about those old war bonds in the lost and found?’” Hatch said. “I said, ‘What war bonds?’”

Sure enough, sealed in a large bag was a zippered pouch that contained World War I honorable discharge papers for an Army man named Joe Porter, as well as a bank ledger and 30-40 $25 war bonds issued from 1943-1945.

Throughout history, the United States government funded wars through bonds to avoid raising taxes. These bonds also helped to control inflation by removing money from circulation in a strained wartime economy. 

While Hatch didn’t have much to go on, he did know that it was his duty to find the rightful owner of these incredible pieces of American and family history. He contacted the dispatcher who was working when the items were first turned in around 2018. She lives out of town now and, while she remembered the bonds, she couldn’t recall the details of who submitted the items. 

Next, Hatch went online to find out all he could about the name on the discharge papers, and searched as far as he could before having to pay for a genealogy website. Hatch then called his sister, who is a genealogy hobbyist, and enlisted her help to find Porter’s relatives.

“I told my sister I couldn’t give her any details or why I needed the information, just that I needed to find this man’s next of kin,” Hatch said. 

A few hours later, she called him back with a name and possible city. The hunt was on. Hatch started looking at other avenues, like tax records. He was finally able to track down Porter’s adult granddaughter, Jennifer Quiroga, who lived in Boerne, Texas. He had a name and an address, but no phone number. Hatch’s next step was to reach out to the Boerne Police Department and ask them to deliver a message to Quiroga at her home. 

“That was such a strange thing,” Quiroga said. “I have a teenage daughter, so when a police officer showed up on my porch, I thought, ‘Oh no, what’s she done??’ But then to have them deliver a message like that – it was really cool.”

Quiroga called Hatch and learned that the WPD had some personal effects that belonged to her grandfather. Conveniently, she was planning a trip to Dallas to visit friends and was happy to make a trip to Whitesboro to pick up the items.

Last Thursday, in the office of Whitesboro Police Chief Alex Coss, Hatch presented Quiroga with the zippered pouch of items. She was visibly happy to receive her grandfather’s discharge papers, but to see the war bonds was a big surprise.

“My grandfather was very serious about supporting the war,” she said about the bonds. “The only way I can figure [that they wound up here] is that we had an uncle who passed away, and someone had some of his properties – these were all probably in a safety deposit box, or something,” Quiroga said.

Porter, who lived in Sherman, was 18 when he enlisted in the Army where he served as a drug clerk. His oldest son was just six years old when he left for the war. In his later years, he retired to Whitesboro where he and his wife bought a farm. They had cows, a big windmill, a kitchen garden tended by his wife, and ponies for the grandkids.

“I lived in Dallas as a young girl, but I remember visiting the farm and walking among the cows with my grandmother,” Quiroga said. “It was a neat time and so different from my everyday life.” 

Sadly the farm burned down after the Porters passed away, and Quiroga was hesitant to visit the property.

“I’d rather remember it the way it was, in happier times,” she said. 

Quiroga, who couldn’t stop looking at the items in the bag, was grateful to the Whitesboro Police for their efforts in tracking her down.

“This is amazing,” she said. “I really appreciate you finding this for me…or finding me for this, as the case may be!”

Officer Hatch was glad the story had such a positive outcome.

“I know that if that had been my granddad, I would have wanted those items,” Hatch said. “For me, this is what being a police officer is all about. My chief likes to remind me that we’re in the public service business. I’m glad we were able to get these items to their rightful owner.”

Now that Porter’s items have been returned, Hatch is turning his attention to the next series of items in the vault: bibles, wallets, a Collinsville High School diploma and a set of military dog tags, among other things. 

This experience with the war bonds has led the WPD to streamline their process for lost and found items. If anyone finds an item that doesn’t belong to them, the item should be turned into dispatch at the police station. The department will hold it for 90 days to give owners the opportunity to claim it. If the police are unable to locate the owners, they’ll wait an additional 30 days and then destroy or sell the items, depending on their value.

Anyone searching for a missing item should contact the non-emergency line for the police department at 903-564-3585.