Hyla Merin never met her father. An Army officer from Buffalo, he was killed in Italy in the final days of World War II.
But in ceremonies earlier this week at her home in Westlake Village, Calif., near Los Angeles, Merin received her father’s long-lost battle medals, including a Silver Star.
Second Lt. Hyman Markel’s Purple Heart turned up about four months ago in a box containing papers that was discovered by the manager of a West Hollywood apartment building where Merin’s mother lived in the 1960s.
The manager got in touch with Purple Hearts Reunited, which returns lost or stolen medals to veterans or their families, and they tracked down Merin. In addition to the Purple Heart, she received his Silver Star and half a dozen other medals.
Markel was killed while taking out a German machine-gun position to save the men in his infantry unit after they were ambushed while on patrol in Italy’s Po Valley in May 1945, according to Zachariah Fike, a Vermont Army National Guard captain who founded Purple Hearts Reunited.
Merin’s mother, Celia, met Markel at a Jewish temple in Buffalo and married him in 1941, when he already was in the military. She never talked about him with her daughter.
“It was a very difficult topic for her,” she told the Associated Press. “When my father died, she was seven months pregnant with me.”
Through relatives, she learned that her father was a rabbi’s son and was brilliant in mathematics. Her only image of him came from wedding photos in which he was wearing his military uniform.
Her mother was told about the discovery of the Purple Heart but didn’t get to witness its return. She died Feb. 1 at age 94.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.